Minneapolis indie music fans may be familiar with the band Bright Eyes. The band’s founder and front man, Conor Oberst has enjoyed international success as a singer and songwriter and toured the world. More recently, however, he’s been the subject of much speculation, debate and anger after a woman accused him of raping her 10 years ago.
The woman’s remarks were first captured last Dec. in response to a story that appeared on the women’s lifestyle website xoJane. Soon after, the comments were deleted. The woman, who eventually identified herself as being Joanie Faircloth, then used a Tumblr account to continue discussing her decision to come forward and name Oberst. Within a matter of weeks, national media outlets were covering the story.
By the time Oberst himself learned of the woman’s comments, he simply brushed them off and released a statement in which he referred to the remarks as being “spurious blog chatter.” For sexual assault victims and those who believed Faircloth, Oberst’s dismissive comment likely only further harmed his reputation.
Upon realizing just how fast and far the rape allegations had spread, Oberst took steps to file a libel lawsuit against Faircloth in which he spoke to the damaging affect the false accusations have had on his personal and professional life. The lawsuit also discussed how Faircloth’s “malicious lies spread across the Internet and are archived by multiple blogs.”
Last month, some six months since publically accusing Oberst of rape, Faircloth admitted she’d made the whole story up. In a notarized public statement, Faircloth stated she lied “to get attention while I was going through a difficult period in my life and trying to cope with my son’s illness.” Soon thereafter, Oberst dropped his lawsuit against his accuser and, in a statement, admitted he’s looking “forward to moving on to happier times.”
Upon Googling Oberst’s name, stories related to the false rape accusation, many of them negative and damning, dominate search results. Even in the wake of Faircloth’s admission that she completely made up the story, Oberst’s name and reputation will forever be marred.
Cases involving accusations of rape and sexual assault are serious and should be thoroughly investigated. Sadly, cases involving false rape accusations serve to not only damage the lives and reputations of innocent individuals, but also serve to discredit and further exploit victims of sexual assault.
Source: The Washington Post, “The inside story of a reputation-ruining, idol-killing Internet hoax,” Caitlin Dewey, July 15, 2014