The fraternity named in a discredited Rolling Stone feature about an alleged gang rape on a US college campus said Monday it will take legal action against the iconic pop culture magazine.
News of a looming lawsuit by the University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi came a day after a Columbia University investigation faulted Rolling Stone for the way it reported and edited the story.
Published in November under the headline "A Rape on Campus," the article was pegged on a freshman named "Jackie" who claimed she had been gang-raped at the Phi Kappa Psi frat house in September 2012.
The story triggered protests, and stoked a national debate about the way US colleges handle -- or mishandle -- sexual assault, before it unraveled in the face of a growing number of discrepencies.
"Clearly our fraternity and its members have been defamed," said Stephen Scipione, president of the fraternity's Virginia Alpha Chapter, in a statement Monday.
"But more importantly we fear this entire episode may prompt some (sexual assault) victims to remain in the shadows, fearful to confront their attackers."
Rolling Stone retracted the story on Sunday and issued an apology on the heels of the Columbia University inquiry, which it commissioned after doubts emerged over the credibility of its source.
Published by the Columbia Journalism Review's website, the 12,000-word investigation found lapses in journalism standards at Rolling Stone from start to finish of the purported expose.
The author of the 9,000-word article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who still contributes to Rolling Stone, acknowledged Sunday she "did not go far enough" to verify the story.
- No hard evidence -
Police in Charlottesville, where the university is located, said in March they had failed after five months to come up with hard evidence to back up the allegations that "Jackie" gave to Rolling Stone.
Without elaborating, Phi Kappa Psi said it planned "to pursue all available legal action against the magazine" over the story, which had "ostracized" members of the fraternity and prompted acts of vandalism at its stately, colonnaded premises.
Columbia University took Rolling Stone to task for failing to verify the alleged victim's claims, or to give Phi Kappa Psi an opportunity to review the allegations in detail.
"The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine's editors to reconsider publishing Jackie's narrative so prominently, if at all," it said.
The explosive article had sought to show a dramatic example of sexual assault on a college campus and the struggles that victims face afterwards -- a problem at universities across the United States.
But reporters and editors were so focused on publishing the harrowing example of "Jackie" that "basic, even routine" reporting standards were not followed, according to the Columbia report.
One major stumbling block was the date of the alleged gang rape.
"Jackie" said it occurred on September 28, 2012 during a party at Phi Kappa Psi; it later emerged no such event took place there that night.