The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

A Coven of Liars: Sabrina Rubin Erdley, Emily Renda and Catherine Lhamon

Posted on | April 9, 2015 | 57 Comments

Left to right: Sabrina Rubin Erdley, Emily Renda, Catherine Lhamon

One of the first journalists to raise serious questions about Rolling Stone‘s rape hoax story, Richard Bradley makes this point:

Sabrina Rubin Erdely started with a thesis and went in search of someone—and some place—that fit her thesis. She found Jackie and the University of Virginia. But, she admits, if she had discovered that Jackie was a liar, it wouldn’t have caused her to question her thesis.

Erdely’s article began with her belief — i.e., rape is commonplace on American campuses, and university officials are indifferent to the plight of victims — and all her “reporting” was intended to confirm this belief. Rather than following the facts wherever they might lead, Erdely instead ignored facts that did not fit her pre-existing belief, and therefore accepted Jackie’s gang-rape lies without investigating them properly.

Erdely’s article was not only a baseless smear of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, but a vicious libel against University of Virginia officials who were presented as heartless enablers of an out-of-control culture of sexual violence. The crucial link in Erdely’s dishonest work — the person whose assistance made it possible for her to produce this cruel fabrication — was a young UVA activist named Emily Renda.

K.C. Johnson at National Review highlights Renda’s role:

“Last July 8, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, a writer for Rolling Stone, telephoned Emily Renda, a rape survivor working on sexual-assault issues as a staff member at the University of Virginia.” So opens the Columbia Journalism School’s review of Rolling Stone’s retracted story about the University of Virginia. The piece confirms that it was Renda who informed Erdely about Jackie, the fabulist whose tale became the spine of the Rolling Stone article. Though the CJR labels Renda a “rape survivor,” she appears never to have filed a complaint with the university, much less with the police.

What did he say? Johnson links to Renda’s June 2014 testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which begins with this three-sentence paragraph:

Like many others who work on the issue of campus sexual assault, my connection to this cause is a personal one. Nearly four years ago, six weeks into my first year, I was raped by a fellow student on my campus after a night out with friends. In the time following the assault, I became active in peer sexual assault education, worked for the University of Virginia’s Women’s Center, interned with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Victim Witness Program, worked with U.Va. administration to improve prevention and response efforts, and chaired Take Back The Night, a national campaign to raise awareness about sexual violence.

Nowhere in her testimony does Renda say that she reported to police or to university officials that she was raped, nor if anyone was prosecuted or disciplined as a result. This omission is curious. If her “connection to this cause is a personal one,” wouldn’t Renda want to tell the committee how officials dealt with her personal trauma? However, I think Johnson may be going too far by asserting that it “appears” Renda never filed a complaint. Maybe she just didn’t think these details relevant to her Senate testimony, as compared to this part of her testimony:

One of the student survivors I worked with, Jenna, was gang-raped by five fraternity men early in her freshman year. Despite the severity of the assault and injuries she sustained, Jenna still experienced a feeling of personal responsibility. Looking for affirmation, she sought out peers and told her story. Sadly, each and every one of the friends she reached out to responded with varying denials of her experience; these responses worsened her feelings of self-blame — that she must be confused because that fraternity “is full of great guys”; that she must have made them think she was “down for that”; questioning how no one else at the party could have heard what was going on if she was telling the truth; or discouraging her from seeking help because “you don’t want to be one of those girls who has a reputation” for reporting “that kind of thing.” These statements haunted Jenna. She told me that they made her feel crazy, and made her question whether her own understanding of the rape was legitimate.

This story about “Jenna” is actually about Jackie, whose lurid (and evidently fictitious) rape saga Erdely told in Rolling Stone. Renda testified to the Senate how the case of “Jenna”/Jackie came to the attention of university officials:

Survivors who receive disaffirming responses to initial disclosures are more likely to experience negative mental health consequences as well. These negative and victim-blaming responses from her peers reinforced Jenna’s sense of fault, and prevented her from coming forward to the University’s administration or the Police. When she finally sought assistance from the Dean of Students’ office, after struggling and nearly failing out of her classes for two semesters, it was difficult for the university to conduct a meaningful investigation because much of the evidence had been lost, and witnesses were more difficult to locate.

Whoa. Full stop. Do you see the significance here? Jackie was having an academic problem and “sought assistance” by offering the excuse that her poor performance in the classroom was a traumatic symptom of her gang-rape. We now know that, despite the urging of university officials, Jackie refused to file a criminal complaint or to identity her alleged attackers, and also refused to cooperate with the more recent police investigation of the claims made in the the Rolling Stone story.

Phi Kappa Psi has been exonerated, and the disclosures about her “Haven Monahan” catfishing scheme have destroyed Jackie’s credibility. It therefore appears that everything Jackie told Emily Renda was a lie, and Renda then repeated these lies in her own Senate testimony. Now, back to K.C. Johnson at National Review:

As for Jackie with Rolling Stone, for the CJR, Renda’s word about her status as a victim of crime is enough.
Renda appeared in the Monday New York Times’ summary of the Columbia exposé, described not only as a “rape survivor” but “the expert at the university on sexual assault issues.” Now, however, Renda was a critic of Erdely’s work and the decision to highlight Jackie’s story. “Ms. Renda,” reporter Ravi Somaiya wrote, “offered another reason that she felt the Rolling Stone article was flawed: The magazine was drawn toward the most extreme story of a campus rape it could find. The more nuanced accounts, she suggested, seemed somehow ‘not real enough to stand for rape culture. And that is part of the problem.’”
Nowhere in his article did Somaiya reveal that Rolling Stone never would have learned about Jackie but for Renda. Indeed, as Columbia uncovered, the UVA employee had even vouched for the fabulist’s credibility: “Obviously, maybe her memory of [the rape] isn’t perfect,” she said, defending Jackie in advance against worries Erdely might have. Informing Times readers of Renda’s critical connection to the Rolling Stone fiasco might have undermined the Times’ desire to portray her as an expert on the topic of campus sexual assault.

What Johnson is pointing out here is the circular logic of self-validating authority that the “rape survivor” Emily Renda presents as the crucial credential of her own expertise. Neither Rolling Stone nor the New York Times would dare question Renda’s authority, so that when Renda vouched for Jackie, this was like the Certified Rape Survivor Seal of Approval as far as Erdely and Rolling Stone were concerned. When it turned out Jackie was a liar, however, the New York Times cited Renda to criticize Erdely’s reporting. Yet it seems quite likely that Erdely never would have thought to make the University of Virginia the focus of her story, had it not been for Emily Renda’s Senate testimony about “Jenna”/Jackie getting gang-raped at a frat house.

The feminist mantra about rape — “We must believe the survivors!” — conveys an unquestionable authority to any woman who says she has been raped. K.C. Johnson, however, points out that we know nothing at all about the circumstances surrounding Emily Renda’s own status as a “rape survivor.” While we cannot draw any inference from this omission, it is nevertheless indicative of a journalistic failure. Has any reporter even bothered to ask Emily Renda if she reported her own rape to police or university officials? Is the basis of her “rape survivor” authority not even worth asking a few simple questions?

Excuse me if this seems impertinent or disrespectful, but this goes back to something that happened last summer. George Will wrote a column about the “campus rape epidemic” hysteria in which he said that university officials are learning “that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” His suggestion that being a victim of rape is a “coveted status” on campus made Will a target of vilification, although anyone with two eyes and a brain can see that what he said (or, at least, what he intended to say) is quite true. Emily Renda’s status as a “rape survivor” has become the basis of her career as an activist, and Jackie’s tale of being raped at the Phi Kappa Psi house made her a source so authoritative that she was cited in Renda’s testimony to the U.S. Senate and was pursued by a reporter for Rolling Stone. So, yes, at some level, victimhood is a status sufficiently “coveted” on campus that Jackie was willing to lie to obtain that status. We have certainly seen how “victims proliferate” in this manner, and even several clear cases of rape hoaxes.

It is reportedly estimated that between 2% and 8% of rape accusations are false. Whether it’s 1-in-50 or 1-in-12, false accusations are not an insignificant danger, even if the vast majority of such accusations are true. What we have to ask — as George Will meant to suggest — is whether false accusations are incentivized by an environment where university officials “make victimhood a coveted status.”

In other words, are false rape claims more common on campus than elsewhere in society? Furthermore, isn’t it likely that the recent feminist “rape epidemic” hysteria would inspire an increase in such false claims? And if a reporter like Erdely set out to confirm this feminist narrative, wouldn’t her sources necessarily be activist types who care more about advancing the narrative than telling the truth?

Erdely’s journalistic catastrophe was predictable, and Richard Bradley calls attention to a letter that UVA Dean of Students Allen Groves sent to the authors of the Columbia Journalism Review’s investigation of the Rolling Stone hoax. Groves describes how his presentation to the UVA Board of Visitors in September 2014 was misrepresented by Erdely, who wrote that Groves “downplayed the significance of a Title IX compliance review” with a “smooth answer.”

Erdely’s description is contrary to fact, as established by video of the board meeting. Erdely also quotes a federal official describing Groves as “irresponsible.” That federal official is Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Lhamon’s appearance in Erdely’s story is hardly a coincidence. The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross reports that Lhamon and Emilly Renda are part of the same federal apparatus:

[Lhamon] has served as the Education Department’s designee to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault which Obama created on Jan. 22, 2014. Renda served on the same task force.
Besides that link, both spoke at a February 2014 University of Virginia event entitled “Sexual Misconduct Among College Students.”
Lhamon has been invited to the White House nearly 60 times, according to visitor’s logs. Renda has been invited six times. Both were invited to the same White House meeting on three occasions. One, held on Feb. 21, 2014, was conducted by Lynn Rosenthal, then the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. Twenty-one people, mostly activists, were invited to that meeting. Lhamon and Renda were invited to two other larger gatherings — one on April 29 and the other on Sept. 19.
It is unclear if both attended the three meetings. Renda did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Renda and Lhamon also testified at a June 26, 2014, Senate hearing on campus sexual assault. It was at that hearing that Renda cited Jackie’s story that she was brutally gang-raped by five fraternity members — a statement that was inconsistent with Jackie’s claim to Erdely that she was raped by seven men. According to the Columbia report, Renda first told Erdely about Jackie’s allegation on July 8, nearly two weeks after her Senate testimony.
During her testimony, Lhamon claimed that “The best available research suggests that 20% of college women, and roughly 6% of college men, are victims of attempted or completed sexual assault.” That “one-in-five” claim about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus has been heavily disputed.

Now, read the second page of Chuck Ross’s report:

In his letter, Groves wrote that he filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking correspondence between Lhamon and Erdely. Likewise, The Daily Caller filed a FOIA request but expanded the inquiry to include emails Lhamon and her assistant sent to Renda.
In his letter to Coll and Coronel, Groves wrote that he was “one of the professionals vilified by name” in Erdely’s article.
He claimed that Erdely completely mischaracterized remarks he made at a Sept. 2014 meeting with university trustees about sexual assault and that Lhamon disparaged him with comments she made to Erdely. . . .
Despite the context provided by Groves, the Department of Education is not backing off of Lhamon’s comments to Erdely.
“We stand by the statement Catherine made during her interview with Rolling Stone,” Dorie Turner Nolt, the agency’s press secretary, told TheDC.

This is serious. Here you have Erdely misrepresenting a UVA dean’s words and a federal official disparaging the dean on the basis of that misrepresentation, and the Department of Education declares that it will “stand by” this smear? More than that, however, Lhamon and Renda appear to have a very close connection through the White House task force, and both were sources for Erdely’s now-discredited article.

Lhamon, Renda and Erdely are part of a coven of liars who have conspired to fabricate a crime that never happened in order to justify this ongoing “rape epidemic” hysteria. This dishonest campaign of purposeful falsehood is being orchestrated directly from the White House as part of a systematic effort to create regulations that deprive college students of their due-process rights. Congress must investigate!

P.S.: I emailed the University of Virginia Communications Office to ask if they could provide information about Emily Renda’s rape.



57 Responses to “A Coven of Liars: Sabrina Rubin Erdley, Emily Renda and Catherine Lhamon”

  1. gothamette
    April 12th, 2015 @ 9:50 am

    I don’t agree with your point. I haven’t missed anything.

    Erdely (not Erdley) et al are liars. Nuff said about them.

    But what they are lying about happens to be true. There is a predatory culture, call it what you will, call it rape culture, that has taken root on campus. It’s the natural consequence of no rules, which of course is one of the things feminism gave us. Guess what, the weak suffer without rules.

    I don’t like fake conservatism that denies the facts. The fact is that unmoored from traditional morality, male sexuality becomes something pretty horrible. I can think feminists are nuts and think that too.

  2. News of the Week (April 12th, 2015) | The Political Hat
    April 12th, 2015 @ 1:48 pm

    […] A Coven of Liars: Sabrina Rubin Erdley, Emily Renda and Catherine Lhamon One of the first journalists to raise serious questions about Rolling Stone’s rape hoax story, Richard Bradley makes this point […]

  3. Haven Monahan
    April 12th, 2015 @ 2:46 pm

    They go after me even tho I’z dint do nuffins to that Jackie chick. But when a real gang rape is actually videotaped — the feminists don’t say a thing!

  4. Robert What?
    April 12th, 2015 @ 7:58 pm

    Do people actually still read Rolling Stone? I’m sure RS is very pleased with Erdely. She single handedly dragged them back from total irrelevance, at least temporarily. People may start reading RS just to spot what they are lying about in each issue. Maybe they can even start a regular “Spot the Whopper” feature.

  5. Robert What?
    April 12th, 2015 @ 8:29 pm

    You are simply wrong. Studies have shown that the incidence of rape is higher off the college campus than on. There is no “rape culture”. There are young men and women getting smashed and doing what young men and women getting smashed have done forever.

  6. April 13, 2015 « Pickerhead
    April 13th, 2015 @ 6:49 am

    […] the blog The Other McCain posts on the “coven of liars” that promoted the […]

  7. Ethics in Doxxing? : The Other McCain
    April 13th, 2015 @ 1:16 pm

    […] Here I think feminists simply do not wish to be held responsible for their own deliberate aggression. Every day — every single day for the past two years at least — feminists have been pushing this “rape culture” discourse that demonizes all men as responsible for an alleged epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. It seemed to me at first that this was simply a carry-over from the “War on Women” rhetoric of the 2012 campaign. When it persisted, however, I recognized that one reason activists kept beating the “rape culture” drum was in preparation for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. There was a clear partisan political agenda behind this, and the Democrat operatives pushing this agenda didn’t give a damn about actual facts. […]