The prospect of a libel suit tends to concentrate the mind. So Lena Dunham and her publisher, Random House, have finally responded to John Nolte’s investigation into her claim that she was “raped by a Republican” named Barry while a student at Oberlin. If you haven’t read John’s report, you should: it leaves no doubt that Dunham’s story is false.
Random House now says that “Barry” is a pseudonym:
“As indicated on the copyright page of ‘Not That Kind of Girl’ by Lena Dunham, some names and identifying details in the book have been changed. The name ‘Barry’ referenced in the book is a pseudonym,” the publisher told TheWrap exclusively. “Random House, on our own behalf and on behalf of our author, regrets the confusion that has led attorney Aaron Minc to post on GoFundMe on behalf of his client, whose first name is Barry.”
There are two problems with this: first, Dunham implied that “Barry” was the rapist’s real name. When she uses a pseudonym earlier in her book, she says so. No such treatment for Barry. Further, she first relates her encounter with Barry in a manner that does not portray it as a rape. Then, in the following chapter, she says, “I’m an unreliable narrator.” She goes on to re-tell the Barry story, only now as a rape. The clear implication is that the reader is now getting the real truth.
The second problem is more fundamental. As Nolte’s investigation showed, the trouble with Dunham’s story isn’t just that the rapist wasn’t named Barry. Rather, there was no one at Oberlin at the relevant time who fit her description in any respect. Dunham says the rapist was “the campus’s resident conservative.” But her vivid description–big mustache, purple cowboy boots, host of a radio show called “Real Talk With Jimbo,” worked at the college library and had an unusually deep voice–doesn’t fit any conservative or any Republican who was at Oberlin at the time. She made the whole thing up.
Was Lena Dunham, as she claims, “raped by a Republican”? Every other detail of her story is false, so why should the rapist’s political affiliation be accurate? Assuming, of course, that the rape occurred in the first place, which now appears unlikely. After all, one thing we know for sure is that Dunham is an unreliable narrator.