In her just-released memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham describes her alma mater, Oberlin College, as “a liberal arts haven in the cornfields of Ohio.” After a month-long investigation that included more than a dozen interviews, a trip to the Oberlin campus, and hours spent poring through the Oberlin College archives, her description of the campus remains the only detail Breitbart News was able to verify in Dunham’s story of being raped by a campus Republican named Barry.
On top of the name Barry, which Dunham does not identify as a pseudonym (more on the importance of this below), Dunham drops close to a dozen specific clues about the identity of the man she alleges raped her as a 19-year-old student. Some of the details are personality traits like his being a “poor loser” at poker. Other details are quite specific. For instance, Dunham informs us her rapist sported a flamboyant mustache, worked at the campus library, and even names the radio talk show he hosted.
To be sure we get the point, on three occasions Dunham tells her readers that her attacker is a Republican or a conservative, and a prominent one at that — no less than the “campus’s resident conservative.”
For weeks, and to no avail, using phone and email and online searches, Breitbart News was able to verify just one of these details. Like everyone else interested, we immediately found that there indeed was a prominent Republican named Barry who attended Oberlin at the time in question.
Whatever her motives, Dunham is pointing her powerful finger at this man. But as you will read in the details below, the facts do not point back at him. Not even close. This man is by all accounts (including his own) innocent.
Nonetheless, even though she is aware of the suspicion under which she placed this man, to our knowledge, Dunham has yet to clear his name.
To be sure we weren’t overlooking anything, Breitbart News then took the added step of visiting the Oberlin campus in Ohio during the very cold week just before Thanksgiving. Here we interviewed a number of Oberlin staffers and students. Most were pleasant and helpful. Some less so. One adamantly refused access to documents and told us outright that it didn’t matter if Dunham was telling the truth.
In the end, Breitbart News could not find a Republican named Barry who attended Oberlin during Dunham’s time there who came anywhere close to matching her description of him. In fact, we could not find anyone who remembered any Oberlin Republican who matched Dunham’s colorful description.
Under scrutiny, Dunham’s rape story didn’t just fall apart; it evaporated into pixie dust and blew away.
One of the Most Powerful Women in America Cries ‘Rape’
After receiving a reported $3.7 million advance, Dunham’s memoir hit bookshelves in September with a publicity blitz usually reserved for conquering generals returning to ancient Rome. On top of the usual network television appearances and glossy magazine profiles, Dunham’s book tour not only sold out in places, but scalped tickets reportedly sold for as high as $900.
Just four years ago, Dunham was casting family-members in micro-budgeted independent movies she hoped would help her break through. Today, she is the toast of elite salons along both coasts. Every word uttered, every Tweet tweeted, every promotional or political appearance made, and every episode of Girls (the HBO show Dunham created, writes, and directs) is obsessed and gushed over — not only in the entertainment media, but also the mainstream media.
A name search at the New York Times yields more than 5000 results for the 28-year-old, almost exactly the same number recorded for Oscar-winner Kate Winslet, who’s been a star since Dunham was 10.
Although she doesn’t appear to have a very big or mainstream audience, Dunham is still adored by All The Right People and, as a result, she currently stands as one of the most powerful and influential women in America.
When no less than the President of the United States needed young people to turn out for his 2012 re-election effort, BarackObama.com turned to Lena Dunham.
What Dunham says reverberates through our culture. This obviously includes her rape allegation. The story of being a rape survivor led the charge and captured most of the headlines surrounding Dunham’s book launch.
The facts of the rape as Dunham lays them out are found in two chapters. In the chapter titled “Girls and Jerks” Dunham describes an “ill-fated evening of lovemaking with our campus’s resident conservative.” No name is given, no allegation of rape is made. The man in question is merely described as a jerk who tries to get away with not using a condom during sex and who “didn’t say hi to me on campus the next day.”
The following chapter – titled “Barry” – opens with the admission, “I’m an unreliable narrator.” It is here that Dunham refers back to that night of “ill-fated lovemaking” and admits that previously she had not been honest with the reader: “[I]n another essay in this book I describe a sexual encounter with a mustachioed campus Republican as the upsetting but educational choice of a girl who was new to sex when, in fact, it didn’t feel like a choice at all.”
Dunham’s narrative choice to tell the reader that she didn’t tell the full truth before adds a powerful sense of gravitas to her rape allegation. The reader is left believing that the time for any rhetorical games, half-truths, or artistic license will now be put aside.
Before getting into the disturbing details of what Dunham says really happened that night, she sets the stage with anecdotes from her childhood about her misunderstanding and misuse of the word rape.
Dunham writes that she was 19-years-old at the time and met Barry through mutual friends. She met up with him one winter evening at a party. Dunham admits to drinking alcohol and taking drugs that night, including cocaine. She also admits that she took Barry back to her on-campus apartment even though, without her consent, Barry had just jammed his fingers into her vagina: “Barry leads me to the parking lot. I tell him to look away. I pull down my tights to pee, and he jams a few of his fingers inside me, like he’s trying to plug me up. I’m not sure whether I can’t stop it or I don’t want to.”
After ignoring a warning from a friend, Dunham tells us she still took Barry back to her place and then explicitly details a dark sexual encounter. Twice during intercourse she discovers that he has removed his condom without telling her. The second time she throws Barry out and, the next morning, she “diligently enter[s] the encounter into the Word document… titled “Intimacy Database.” Barry. Number four. We fucked. 69’d. It was terribly aggressive. Only once. No one came.”
Dunham writes in the following paragraph: “When I was young, I read an article about a ten-year-old girl who was raped by a stranger on a dark road… And I never forgot this story, but I didn’t remember until many days after Barry fucked me. Fucked me so hard that the next morning I had to sit in a hot bath to soothe myself. Then I remembered.”
Dunham then recounts that, after telling friends and co-workers about the night, she is told in no uncertain terms that Barry raped her. Dunham also claims Barry hurt her to a point where she later found it necessary to visit a doctor. We also learn about Barry’s very troubling history of violence against other women:
[M]y friend Melody tells me that once her friend Julia woke up the morning after sex with Barry, and the wall was spattered with blood. Spattered, she said, “like a crime scene.” But he was nice and took her for the morning-after pill and named the baby they weren’t having.
Dunham sums up the rape story:
“But I also know that at no moment did I consent to being handled that way. I never gave him permission to be rough, to stick himself inside me without a barrier between us. I never gave him permission.”
During her book tour, in an interview with radio superstar Howard Stern, Dunham replied with a simple “yes” after Stern said, “You were raped by a guy.”
Dunham is obviously describing an evil man who not only raped her but physically hurt two other women. He also comes off as a raging hypocrite: a big-shot campus conservative who runs out to purchase a morning-after abortion pill. Again, on three different occasions Dunham reminds readers that her rapist is either a Republican or a prominent campus conservative.
Dunham also goes into great detail to describe Barry. Here’s what she tells us — everything in quotation marks is directly from the memoir:
1. The name of Lena Dunham’s rapist is Barry. Early in the memoir, when Dunham uses a pseudonym, she informs the reader of that fact. She did not do so in this instance, leaving the reader to assume that Barry is her alleged rapist’s real name.
2. Dunham was a 19-year-old Oberlin College student when the incident occurred.
3. Barry was the “campus’s resident conservative.”
4. Barry “hosted a radio show called Real Talk with Jimbo.”
5. Barry “wore purple cowboy boots.”
6. The incident occurred in winter.
7. The incident occurred just before Barry graduated in December of that same year.
8. Barry was a “mustachioed campus Republican” with a “mustache that rode the line between ironic Williamsburg fashion and big buck hunter.”
9. Barry “worked part-time at the library… shelving books.”
10. Barry had a voice “that went Barry White low.”
Also, as National Review’s Kevin Williamson points out, Barry is not a common name. It doesn’t even rank in the top 100 as a popular male name.
In a relatively small school with fewer than 3,000 students, it shouldn’t be difficult to get a line on someone that flamboyant named Barry. Moreover, Oberlin isn’t just a liberal school; it is a famously liberal school where Republicans stand out like nuns on a football field.
Nevertheless, no amount of digging could verify even a single detail of Dunham’s rape claim.
Exonerating the Man We Call “Barry One”
Anyone with half a brain and access to Google has already discovered that, during Dunham’s time at Oberlin College, there was a prominent Republican named Barry who was politically active and quite well-known.
Breitbart News is not going to name this man. Instead, we will refer to him throughout as “Barry One.”
Last month, Barry One told National Review’s Kevin Williamson that “he has never met Dunham and had no relationship with her.”
Our independent investigation backs that up:
1. Dunham claims Barry raped her when she was nineteen in the late fall or winter before her winter break. Because Dunham was born in May of 1986, this means the incident occurred in 2005.
Dunham describes Barry as a “super senior” with “one more semester to finish” who went on to “graduate in December.” That leads the reader to believe her rapist graduated in December of 2005.
Barry One graduated in May of 2006. Among other sources, we verified that Barry One was still an Oberlin student through the archives of the campus newspaper and video of Barry One speaking at a school event in 2006.
2. Dunham describes Barry as sporting a mustache like a “big buck hunter.” Two sources who knew Barry One during the time in question confirmed that he never had a mustache of any kind. We also found two photographs and one video of Barry One during his time at school in which he’s clean-shaven.
3. Dunham describes Barry as having a voice that “went Barry White low.” Video of Barry One speaking for more than a few minutes confirms he had a normal pitched voice.
4. Dunham says her attacker worked part-time at the library. Barry One did work at a specialized library but not the school library (known as the Mudd Center). Breitbart News interviewed a staffer who worked with Barry One at this particular library. This person remembered Barry One quite well and chuckled at the idea that he ever sported a big mustache.
Breitbart News also spoke with another longtime staffer at the college and asked if anyone would describe the library Barry One worked at in the way Dunham did: as simply “the library.”
“Absolutely not,” we were told. “That library is specialized and off-campus and focuses only on [that particular field of study]. Unless a student is majoring in that area, it’s unlikely they would even know about that library.”
Nothing in Dunham’s memoir or college history indicates an interest in this field of study.
The Search for a Different “Republican Rapist”
Once it was clear Barry One was not the person Dunham refers to, Breitbart News expanded the scope of the investigation to the larger Oberlin Republican community during the time in question. Once again, not a single detail could be verified.
Though it appears to have since disbanded, during Dunham’s time at Oberlin (2005-2008), there was a small but organized group of college Republicans. Breitbart News spoke to an individual who was a part of this small group during Dunham’s time at Oberlin.
“There was only one Republican guy named Barry [Barry One] I knew of all those years,” our source said. “I’ve read Lena Dunham’s description of this guy and it’s definitely not that Barry.”
When asked if the details of Dunham’s Barry pointed to any other campus Republican, our source was emphatic, “No. Purple cowboy boots and a big mustache is not something you forget.” (Another source active in Oberlin Republican circles at the time said the same.)
He added, “I’m not saying Lena Dunham is lying. It is possible there was a Republican on campus who wasn’t part of this circle.”
A close reading of Dunham’s memoir reveals that our source is being generous. Dunham doesn’t simply describe Barry as a guy who votes or leans Republican. She describes Barry as “our campus’s resident conservative,” which clearly identifies him as a student with some stature on campus as a Republican.
Other than Barry One, who is clearly not the person in question, Breitbart News could find no record or evidence of any Republican named Barry at Oberlin College. Nor could we find any Republican who matched Dunham’s vivid description of her rapist.
If Dunham’s rapist had the stature as the “campus’s resident Republican” she claims he had, he apparently had nothing to do with the small group of organized Republicans on campus at the time.
Searching for Any Guy Named Barry at Oberlin
At this point, Breitbart News decided to widen the scope of the investigation — into the entire student body.
As mentioned above, in an early chapter of her memoir, Dunham informs her readers she’s using a pseudonym for an old boyfriend. “Name changed to protect the truly innocent,” she writes on the third page of the first chapter.
When Dunham writes of her rapist, though, she neither indicates she’s using a pseudonym nor puts quotation marks around Barry’s name. The reader is therefore left with the impression that Dunham is telling her readers the true name of her rapist.
In the unlikely event the Barry in question was unknown to the small group of campus Republicans, we searched for anyone named Barry who attended or graduated from Oberlin College at the time in question.
After a good-faith search through the campus newspaper archives and Oberlin College graduation announcements (available in the school archives), at least in those records, Breitbart News could find no record of anyone named Barry graduating or attending Oberlin College in 2005, 2006, or 2007 — other than Barry One.
What If His Name Isn’t Barry and He Isn’t a Republican?
If Dunham made a mistake about her rapist’s name and political affiliation, we turned over every available rock in an effort to find this individual based on the multitude of other details she provides.
A longtime employee at the Oberlin library could not recall working with any student with a flamboyant mustache.
We found nothing.
This left only one stone left to turn…
Barry the Republican Rapist Radio Star?
In her memoir, Dunham informs readers that her rapist “hosted a radio show called Real Talk with Jimbo.” Even if Barry is a pseudonym and all the other details are, for whatever reason, incorrect, the name of a radio show is the kind of hard fact that should lead to whoever her alleged rapist really is.
According to our search, there are nearly 25 radio stations available in the Oberlin area. Only three of those are talk/news stations. We were able to confirm with the program directors at two of these stations that their particular station never broadcasted a show titled Real Talk with Jimbo. The third, WOBC, is the campus radio station and the most likely broadcaster.
On October 14 of this year, an email inquiry resulted in the following response from a WOBC student staffer:
Sorry I took a while to get back to you. I couldn’t find anything about the show, but you may have more luck asking the station historian, REDACTED. You can reach him at REDACTED@oberlin.edu or at REDACTED@wobc.org
Via email, Breitbart News reached out to the station historian but never heard back.
For obvious reasons, WOBC was a priority during our physical visit to the campus. We were referred to Sophie Hess, who identifies herself as WOBC’s station manager. After a short round of phone tag, Ms. Hess and I caught up one evening.
At first, Ms. Hess was pleasant and eager to help. She informed me that there are physical archives of the station’s program guides. It would take some time to go through them, she explained, but if WOBC did in fact broadcast “Real Talk with Jimbo,” the information should be there.
With the understanding that I would be supervised, I volunteered to do the work of going through the records myself and offered to shift my schedule in any way that was convenient. She replied that she would be happy to do this work and then inquired into the specific details of the story we were working on.
This transcript is based on memory and extensive notes taken during the call:
“An Oberlin graduate, Lena Dunham, wrote a memoir where she claims she was raped as a student here. We’re checking into the details of the story,” I told her.
“I heard about that but didn’t know it involved the radio station,” she replied.
“Yes, according to Dunham her rapist hosted this radio show.”
“Are there other stories you have written about this that I can read?”
“Quite a few [I gave her the website address and my name again]. You’ll see we’re a right-of-center outlet, but you’ll also see that unlike some others we haven’t questioned the veracity of the claim. We looked into what could still be done to get the rapist off the street. It’s still possible to press charges, but as far as we know, Dunham isn’t going to do that. Now the story is at a point where we need to check the details. If this guy exists, we need to find him. If he doesn’t, we need to know that.”
“What you’re looking for,” Ms. Hess informed me, “could create a conflict of interest on campus regarding sexual assault.”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“People here are less interested in justice for this kind of crime and more interested in helping the victim. I’m not psyched to help you do this.”
“You can look at everything I’ve thus far written about this. We just want to know the truth.”
“Asking whether or not a victim is telling the truth is irrelevant,” Ms. Hess proclaimed. “It’s just not important if they are telling the truth. If this person had wanted criminal justice they would have pursued it.”
“I’m not just talking about criminal justice,” I responded. “The details in the book point to a specific individual.”
“Who graduated years ago.”
“This man is easily found using Google and says he’s innocent. Right now everyone is looking at him and he’s just twisting out there.”
“Our archives are private. We have no obligation to share them with anyone. I don’t want our organization to be a part of this. I’m the general manager and the answer is no.”
And with that, Sophie hung up.
The next morning, my first stop was an early morning visit to Oberlin’s media relations department. No one was available. I left my card and on it a few details about the story. Later that afternoon, I received a voice mail from Scott Wargo, Oberlin’s Director of Media Relations. In my return message I related what had happened with Ms. Hess and said I would still love to have access to those archives.
That call was not returned.
A general online search and search of the archives of the school newspaper came up with nothing about a radio show called “Real Talk with Jimbo.”
Lena Dunham might have been raped at Oberlin College, but the “Barry” she describes in her memoir is a ghost.
The man we call Barry One, however, the man legions have found online using details published in Not That Kind of Girl, is very real. And what’s unforgivable is that, through an incomprehensible malice or a combination of breathtaking carelessness and a number of unthinkable coincidences, in the courtroom of public opinion, Lena Dunham is pointing her powerful finger at this man and screaming “rapist.”
After Kevin Williamson’s National Review story published, in which Barry One is portrayed as a stressed and worried family man being hounded by the press and terrified his full name will be published, Dunham responded directly to Williamson’s piece but said nothing about the innocence of the man she placed under this national microscope.
Rather than use this opportunity to clear his name (if Barry is a pseudonym this would have been an opportune time to say something), she instead condemned him through silence and made the “most unfortunate coincidence” of a man’s life all about Lena Dunham:
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) October 18, 2014
Some men are enraged by stories of sexual assault that don’t have clear cut villains, pimps or men with guns…
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) October 18, 2014
That’s because these stories force them to ask hard questions about their history with consent…
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) October 18, 2014
Well, we all have to ask hard questions. Grow the fuck up.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) October 18, 2014
And I have some news for certain “news” outlets. No matter how much you thump your keyboards with your meat hands we will not stop talking.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) October 18, 2014
It’s not unheard of for a 28-year-old woman like Lena Dunham to be this selfish and reckless. The real question is, how did this get through her publisher, Random House?
Meanwhile, Barry One has had to hide his Facebook page and retain an attorney.
Through various sources, Breitbart News learned that another news organization is pursuing other leads and individuals. One particular name came up twice. His name is not Barry, but for obvious reasons we won’t reveal his name. A thorough, good faith search did reveal that this individual attended Oberlin at the same time Dunham did. If this is him, two individuals directly involved in Oberlin’s Republican organization did not know the man Dunham describes as Oberlin’s “resident conservative.”
We could find nothing about his political affiliation, and the only radio history we could find belonged to a family member.
We were able to verify that this individual did not hold any kind of job at any Oberlin school library.
The harrowing rape and murder scandals currently unfolding at the University of Virginia are a potent reminder to women and the men who love them that campus sexual assault is a serious issue that demands to be treated seriously.
Based in part on her story of being raped at Oberlin, Lena Dunham has positioned herself as a campus sexual assault activist. This is a noble cause but one that should come with setting a good example.
Maybe Lena Dunham’s rapist is out there, and maybe this man voted for George W. Bush, and maybe this man did indeed hurt two other women.
What we do know is that whatever her motives, rather than cooperate with campus and local authorities (who are taking her charges seriously) to get a brutal man off the street before he hurts another woman, Dunham has apparently decided to instead hurl suspicion at Barry One.
Yesterday afternoon, seeking comment, Breitbart News left detailed voice mail messages for Dunham’s publicist at Random House and the person the publicist asks callers to contact if the matter is urgent. Those calls were not returned.
(Photos taken by John Nolte)
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC