The Atlantic Apologizes for Ruth Shalit Barrett Story After Fabrication, Multiple Inaccuracies Revealed

The Wrap:

Publication also says it should have used Barrett’s maiden name in her byline, the name she went by when accused of plagiarism in the ’90s

The Atlantic said it regrets commissioning and publishing a feature story written by Ruth Shalit Barrett — who was fired from The New Republic in the 1990s over incidents of plagiarism — which has been revealed to include a fabrication and multiple inaccuracies.

In a lengthy editor’s note added to Barrett’s edited story, “The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League-Obsessed Parents,” late Friday, The Atlantic said, “new information emerged” about the article that was published in the outlet’s November 2020 print edition and on its website Oct. 17 “that has raised serious concerns about its accuracy, and about the credibility of the author, Ruth Shalit Barrett.”

“We have established that Barrett deceived The Atlantic and its readers about a section of the story that concerns a person referred to as ‘Sloane.’ We are sharing with our readers what we have learned so far,” the note continues.

According to The Atlantic, the original version of Barrett’s story stated that Sloane has a son and that she confirmed his existence to the publication’s fact checkers before the article was published.

Following its publication, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple inquired “about the accuracy of portions of the article,” which led to The Atlantic’s fact-checking department following up with Sloane, who said through her attorney “that she does not, in fact, have a son” and accused Barrett of suggesting the “invention of a son” and said that Barrett had “encouraged” Sloane to “deceive The Atlantic as a way to protect her anonymity.”

The Atlantic said in its editor’s note it has “independently corroborated that Sloane does not have a son” and corrected the story, and also asked for an explanation from Barrett regarding Sloane’s accusation.

“When we asked Barrett about these allegations, she initially denied them, saying that Sloane had told her she had a son, and that she had believed Sloane,” The Atlantic said. “The next day, when we questioned her again, she admitted that she was ‘complicit’ in ‘compounding the deception’ and that ‘it would not be fair to Sloane’ to blame her alone for deceiving The Atlantic. Barrett denies that the invention of a son was her idea, and denies advising Sloane to mislead The Atlantic’s fact-checkers, but told us that ‘on some level I did know that it was BS’ and ‘I do take responsibility.’”

Sloane’s attorney says there are other inaccuracies in the story, according to The Atlantic, but declined to share what they are, while “Barrett says that the fabricated son is the only detail about which she deceived our fact-checkers and editors.”

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