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December 23 2014

Rolling Stone's U Va "Gang Rape" Tipster Had White House Connections

Charlotte Hays

Rolling Stone’s now unraveled “gang rape” at U Va story made it into print because it fit in with the notion that there is a “rape culture” on college campuses.

The White House has been a big purveyor of this idea, promoting the debunked statistic that one in five women on campus are victims of sexual assault.

Now a stronger link of the Rolling Stone story and the Obama administration may be surfacing—the activist who reportedly introduced the Rolling Stone reporter to “Jackie,” the woman who claimed to have been gang raped at a fraternity house, reportedly helped shape White House websites on sexual assault.

The Daily Caller has the scoop:

The activist that (sic) introduced false University of Virginia rape accuser “Jackie” to Rolling Stone magazine worked with top White House advisers in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to craft websites and official documents on the White House’s college sexual assault policies.

Emily Renda, who works in the vice president for student affairs office at UVA, put “Jackie” in touch with Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely for Erdely’s now discredited expose on a fictional fraternity gang rape.

“You figure into the article as a survivor, activist and mentor/support for Jackie,” Erdely wrote to Renda in an email.

Though the fruits of Renda’s activism did not meet journalistic threshold, the young UVA employee has become a frequent White House visitor that counseled President Obama’s senior rape advisers. Renda recently made five White House visits and helped craft official White House publications as part of the White House Task Force To Prevent Students From Sexual Assault.

This definitely sheds light on how the Rolling Stone fiasco happened. Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with a reporter taking a tip from an activist source. But then you have to report the story—you know, check facts, ask questions—before running with it.

 The Daily Caller provides a fascinating chronicle of Renda’s White House visits, by the way. Kudos to Patrick Howley, the reporter, who obviously did some leg work on this.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the New York legislator who is pushing controversial sexual assault legislation, has quietly removed the widely-debunked one-in-five statistic from her website. Politico reports:  

GILLIBRAND DROPS DISPUTED SEX ASSAULT STATISTIC: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has dropped an increasingly disputed sexual assault statistic from her website. ChangeDetection.com shows how Gillibrand’s sexual assault resources web page no longer includes a sentence citing the National Institute of Health Campus Sexual Assault Study, which concluded that one in five college women will be subject to rape or attempted rape. Gillibrand and others all the way up to President Barack Obama have cited that statistic in their push for colleges to better prevent sexual violence. But critics and media outlets have noted the study’s flaws: It included only two large four-year universities and had a low rate of response, with more nuanced findings than lawmakers suggest. (H/T @mstratford)

The one-in-five number has been debunked by, among others, Factual Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and numbers cruncher Mark Perry. Not unexpectedly, Senator Gillibrand’s office engaged in a bit of light demagoguery when questioned about their removal of the figure:

Gillibrand spokesperson Glen Caplin declined to tell Morning Education why the stat was removed. “There are some who attack this statistic to claim that sexual assault on college campuses is not a problem,” he said. “They need to get their head out of the sand. The problem is real and it is pervasive. Without this distraction, their argument has no merit.”

Those who “attacked” this statistic don’t claim that sexual assault on campus is not a problem. Saying that they do is a smear. One campus rape is a serious problem. Debunkers of the one-in-five number, however, want real numbers, and the numbers, far from being a distraction, are at the heart of this debate.   

 

 



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