A judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by three fraternity members who believed they were easily identifiable in Rolling Stone's debunked gang-rape article from 2014.
The article claimed seven members and pledges from the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity held a young woman down and gang-raped her as part of initiation. The story quickly unraveled when the man who allegedly orchestrated the whole event turned out not to exist and there was not even a party the night the rape allegedly took place.
In the wake of the article's debunking, three lawsuits were filed against Rolling Stone for defamation. One of those lawsuits came from three members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity who argued that family, friends and coworkers identified them as potential rapists from clues in the article.
One of the men, George Elias IV, lived in a bedroom at the top of the first flight of stairs in the fraternity house, which apparently was "the most likely scene of the alleged crime," according to the lawsuit. Elias said people he knew "interrogated him, humiliated him and scolded him." His co-plaintiffs, Ross Fowler and Stephen Hadford described similar situations at work and home.
The lawsuit also claims that the men had their names and hometowns listed online, which ensured their "names will forever be associated with the alleged gang rape." Even after the article was debunked, the men say they were "still being questioned often about the article's accusations."
U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan dismissed the lawsuit, writing the lawsuit didn't include facts, but rather speculation and hypothesis.
"Their defamation claims are directed toward a report about events that simply did not happen," Castel wrote in his dismissal. He also wrote that the men weren't identified by name or physically described in the article.
The three men plan to appeal.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.