Dave Weigel: Breitbart News ‘Pilloried’ for Dunham Investigation

Dave Weigel: Breitbart News ‘Pilloried’ for Dunham Investigation

Writing for Bloomberg Politics, Dave Weigel writes of how “sensitivity to rape victims might have led to flawed reporting” from the likes of Rolling Stone. He goes on to credit Breitbart News for “doing its own reporting” which in part resulted in Random House issuing a statement that finally exonerated a man placed under false suspicion of rape by Lena Dunham’s memoir Not That Kind of Girl.

And conservative media was doing its own reporting. For the better part of a month, Breitbart News’s John Nolte has been raising questions about how Lena Dunham’s memoir names “Barry,” a “campus conservative,” as a man who may have raped her in college. The site’s reporters scoured Dunham’s campus and found the story flawed, especially as it concerned a real-life “Barry.” That Barry responded by starting a legal fund. Only then did Random House announce that it would alter Dunham’s book so that, in future editions, no one would mistake the real-life “Barry” for the person accused, by her, of rape.

Breitbart News was pilloried for investigating this. The attacks were of the sort Cooke was arguing against; they seemed to imply that anyone questioning a rape story was endorsing the culprit over the victim. That wasn’t what Nolte was doing. As Eugene Volokh explained in the Washington Post, Dunham might have opened herself to a libel suit from “identifiable conservative Barry.” To many people, not just conservatives, the media’s sensitivity to “rape culture” seemed to lead to lower standards that damaged peoples’ reputations. Hence the backlash.

Read the full piece here.


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