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Peter Ludlow (inset on top right) is professor of philosophy for Northwestern's Weinberg College in Crowe Hall, pictured above. (Credit: Northwestern/Weinberg photo and Madcoverboy image of Peter Ludlow via WikiCommons)

Northwestern University philosophy professor Peter Ludlow is suing three Chicago news outlets for libel over a story saying he was accused of rape, the Daily Northwestern reported.

Ludlow is suing over an article titled “Student allegedly raped by professor suing Northwestern University” that was published by The Evanston Review, My Fox Chicago/Fox 32 News and WLS-AM 890.

While Ludlow has been accused by a student of sexual assault, which he denies, he hasn’t been accused of rape.

The article, repeated on the three news outlets’ websites, reported on a federal lawsuit filed by a student against Northwestern University in early February claiming the professor, Ludlow, “bought her alcohol on a trip to an art show in Chicago in February 2012 and refused repeated requests to take her home.”  iMediaEthics has redacted her name in our report as she is an alleged sexual assault victim.

According to a Feb. 10 report, the student is suing Northwestern University — but not Ludlow — for “deliberate indifference and retaliation” over her sexual assault complaints against Ludlow.

iMediaEthics reviewed the three reports and it appears that none of the articles in question ever actually named Ludlow.

The article’s byline reads Sun-Times Media, which owns Evanston Review. It was published on Evanston Review‘s website, and then republished on My Fox Chicago and WLS-AM 890’s websites.

The original Sun-Times Media article mischaracterized the litigation’s accusations against Ludlow.

He isn’t accused of rape. Ludlow has denied in his libel lawsuit that there was any sexual assault or harassment, according to Courthouse News.

For example, Northwestern University graduate journalism news website Medill reported that, according to the student’s lawsuit against the university, the university’s sexual harassment and prevention director found “Ludlow initiated kissing, French kissing, rubbing Plaintiff’s back, and sleeping with his arms on and around” her. The female student claimed Ludlow “engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances,” the lawsuit says the director said.

The Daily Northwestern, Northwestern’s student newspaper, noted on Feb. 14 that all three publications had edited their articles to delete the reference to rape after complaints from Ludlow.

But, Fox 32 and WLS-AM 890 “did not delete the previous tweets that included the word ‘rape,” the lawsuit claims, according to Courthouse News.

The Evanston Review‘s article is currently titled “Student sues Northwestern University claiming sexual assault by professor.” It is bylined “Sun-Times Media Wire.” It doesn’t name Peter Ludlow in the article, but one of the commenters on the article posted Ludlow’s name.

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When iMediaEthics checked on Feb. 20, My Fox Chicago has apparently unpublished its article. A Google search shows the Feb. 10 story “Student claiming sexual assault by professor suing Northwestern,” but the link is dead. We’ve asked My Fox Chicago if the unpublishing is in response to the litigation.

iMediaEthics sent Peter Ludlow a series of questions about the two lawsuits, including asking if the stories in question ever named him, if he requested corrections from the news outlets, and for comment on both the student’s lawsuit against Northwestern and his lawsuit against the media.

His attorney, Kate Sedey, sent iMediaEthics a Feb. 13 statement regarding the legal matters. iMediaEthics sent the statement via e-mail to the student’s lawyer for a response and followed up with a voicemail. We’ll update with any response.

The statement denies any allegations of sexual harassment, assault or “inappropriate conduct” occurred with the female student and flags that he “is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit or any lawsuit by” the student. The statement goes on to point out Ludlow’s other mitigating assertions:

“The authorities have never notified Mr. Ludlow of any criminal complaint nor has he ever been contacted by the police. He certainly has never been charged with any crime, now or ever. Moreover, to our knowledge, there has never been any recommendation by any Northwestern ‘committee’ that Mr. Ludlow be terminated.”

The statement goes on to claim that the student “propositioned” him and that he “refused.” Further, it says Ludlow previously “refused to enter into any type of settlement” with the student “because he had done nothing wrong.”

Finally, the statement says:

“We encourage the press and people reading the articles arising out of this complaint to remember that there are two sides to every story. We also encourage the press to engage in responsible reporting and not to inflame an already difficult situation. These allegations are very serious and will be dealt with in due course through the litigation process.”

iMediaEthics also asked Northwestern University for comment regarding the lawsuit against it. University spokesperson Bob Rowley provided iMediaEthics with the university’s statement on the lawsuit.

“We don’t comment on pending litigation, but the University has policies and procedures in place to protect our students and to address any such reported concerns.”

iMediaEthics has written to Evanston Review, My Fox Chicago and WLS-AM 890. We will update with any response.

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Northwestern Prof Not Accused of Rape, Sues Evanston Review, My Fox Chicago/Fox 32 News, WLS-AM 890 for Libel

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