cast doubt yesterday on its story of a young woman who said she was gang-raped at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia, saying it has since learned of "discrepancies" in her account.
"Our trust in her was misplaced," the magazine's editor, Will Dana, wrote in a signed apology.
The backpedaling dispirited advocates for rape victims who said they are concerned it could lead to a setback in efforts to combat sexual assaults both at U.Va. and college campuses elsewhere.
The lengthy article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely was published last month. It focused on a woman identified only as "Jackie," using her case as an example of what it called a culture of sexual violence hiding in plain sight at U.Va.
Rolling Stone said that because Jackie's story was sensitive, the magazine honored her request not to contact the men who she claimed participated in the attack. That prompted criticism from other news organizations.
"We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account," the magazine's statement said. "We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story."
The statement Rolling Stone posted on its website said discrepancies in the woman's account became apparent "in the face of new information," but provided no details about what facts might be in question.
That wasn't enough for some.
"It is deeply troubling that Rolling Stone magazine is now publicly walking away from its central storyline in its bombshell report on the University of Virginia without correcting what errors its editors believe were made," Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement.
The story noted that a dangerous mix of alcohol, date-rape drugs and forced sex at fraternity parties is by no means unique to any one U.S. university. In fact, U.Va. is one of 90 schools facing Title IX sexual-violence investigations from the Education Department, a list that includes four others in Virginia: the College of William and Mary; James Madison University; the University of Richmond; and Virginia Military Institute.
But U.Va was roiled by the article, whose main allegation was that too many people at the university put protecting the school's image and their own reputations above seeking justice for sex crimes. The story prompted protests, classroom debates, formal investigations and a suspension of fraternity activities.
Phi Kappa Psi, where the gang rape allegedly occurred on Sept. 28, 2012, was attacked after the article was published, with cinderblocks thrown through the fraternity house's windows.
The fraternity issued its own statement disputing the account of Jackie, who described being led upstairs by her date, who then allegedly orchestrated her gang-rape by seven men as he and another watched.