Under the apparent belief that all of the legal problems stemming from a discredited 2014 story about an unproven gang rape at the University of Virginia (UVA) were now over, Jann Wenner, founder and majority-owner of Rolling Stone magazine, put his “Bible of the Counterculture” up for sale. But just days after announcing the sale, the leftwing publication has been hit with yet-another legal setback involving the UVA debacle.
Back in 2014, after Rolling Stone was forced to issue the full retraction of “A Rape on Campus,” a high-profile story that detailed the gang rape of a young woman at the hands of craven UVA frat boys, three libel suits were filed against the magazine.
Last December Rolling Stone lost the first suit, this one filed by UVA’s former associate Dean Nicole Eramo. The jury found that Rolling Stone reporter Samantha Erdely was “responsible for defamation, with actual malice” and awarded Eramo $3 million (later settled for an undisclosed amount). The full court decision can be found here.
That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of money for a magazine that famously bought back a 50 percent share of US Weekly in 2006 at a $260 million loss, but the publicity surrounding the December trial kept the UVA credibility-fallout falling well into a third year.
Back in June, with the nightmare of a second trial looming, and in an apparent effort to avoid another round of negative publicity, Rolling Stone settled for $1.65 million with the fraternity targeted in the Erdely article.
Much to Rolling Stone’s relief, the third lawsuit, a defamation suit filed by three members of the fraternity who believe Rolling Stone did not do enough to protect their identities, was dismissed by a judge.
At this point it seemed as though the UVA disaster was finally in the rearview.
What better time to sell?
And so, on Sunday, Wenner announced his sale.
But on Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of two of the three fraternity members and reversed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York judge’s earlier dismissal.
For its part, Rolling Stone could only offer a weak statement about this case having “no merit.” Nevertheless, at the worst possible time, the headlines are back and a high-profile trial or settlement looms.
According to the New York Times, Wenner once bragged that he had been offered $500 million for his magazine. Unfortunately for him, the worm has since turned to a point where just last year 49 percent of Rolling Stone was sold off for a mere $40 million (Wenner is now selling the remaining 51 percent).
Rolling Stone’s decision to embrace the humorless hard-left at the expense of the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” approach to individual freedom that had once made the magazine so vital, has devastated the magazine.
The UVA debacle was merely all of those chickens coming home to roost.
A news outlet that once offered extraordinary journalism, once gave us iconoclastic reporters as politically diverse (and compelling) as Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O’Rourke, threw away all of its credibility.
But that is what happens when your hire social justice warriors instead of journalists.
Just ask CNN.
The case is Elias v. Rolling Stone LLC, No. 16-2465-cv at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.