The writer of the Rolling Stone article that detailed a horrific -- but fabricated -- account of a gang rape at the University of Virginia can remember the exact moment she knew something was amiss.
Sabrina Rubin Erdely's piece, "A Rape on Campus," was first called into question when The Washington Post and other outlets revealed serious factual issues with the story of a student named Jackie. Jackie claimed to have been brutally assaulted by several members of the same fraternity.
In new court documents released by the Post, Rubin Erdely said that she had full confidence in her protagonist until Dec. 5, 2014, when Jackie told her the fraternity in question, Phi Kappa Psi, was going to be issuing a statement denying the story. Rubin Erdely said that the young woman began to waver, saying that her assailants may not have been in Phi Psi after all. She said that when she pressed Jackie for more details, her answers were "confusing and contradictory."
Up until this conversation, Rubin said the she had never considered that the accused "might not be a real person, or that he might not be in Phi Psi.
"To the contrary, I had every indication that Jackie was deeply traumatized by the very existence of this individual, and that she was afraid retribution from him and from his fraternity," she said. "I was completely confident in the accuracy of my story and believed it was solidly sourced."
Concerned by Jackie's behavior, Rubin Erdely reached out to some of Jackie's friends, who admitted that they had serious doubts about her story too. She then contacted her editors at Rolling Stone with an email titled, "our worst nightmare."
Hours later, the article was formally retracted.
"The experience of losing faith in Jackie's credibility was devastating and disorienting," she told the court. "I had been completely blindsided. I felt shattered."
Nicole Eramo, associate dean of students at the University of Virginia, is suing Rolling Stone for defamation, saying the magazine's story portrayed her as callous and uncaring.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the title of the Rolling Stone story as "A Gang Rape on Campus."