Freelance writer Barrett sues The Atlantic for $1M over article retraction

Freelance writer Ruth Shalit Barrett filed a lawsuit against The Atlantic for $1 million after she claims the outlet smeared her in its retraction of her article. 

Barrett wrote an article, titled “The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League-Obsessed Parents,” for The Atlantic back in 2020 regarding rich parents pushing their children to do niche sports in order to get into Ivy League schools. 

The Atlantic issued a lengthy retraction after doubts about the article’s accuracy and the author’s credibility arose, alleging that Barrett had lied to the outlet’s fact checking team.

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In the lawsuit filed with the  U.S. District court in Washington, D.C. on Friday, it says The Atlantic “unlawfully smeared Ms. Barrett for acting in accordance with the law and ethical precepts of the profession of journalism.”

The Atlantic formally retracted the article at the beginning of November 2020, with one of the cited reasons regarding a fake child Barrett allegedly made up in the article. 

The Atlantic further alleged that one of the individuals Barrett interviewed said she was told to lie to the fact checkers at the outlet about having a child. Barrett denies telling the person to lie. 

Barrett deceived The Atlantic and its readers,” The Atlantic wrote, alleging Barrett told the outlet she knew the child in the story “was BS.”

The Atlantic also noted it wanted to give Barrett a second chance at writing after she was accused of  plagiarism at The New Republic in the 1990s. 

“We decided to assign Barrett this freelance story in part because more than two decades separated her from her journalistic malpractice at The New Republic and because in recent years her work has appeared in reputable magazines,” The Atlantic said. 

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Barrett says in the lawsuit, first reported by Politico, that The Atlantic’s description of her fallout with The New Republic was part of a larger “character assassination” and not completely accurate. 

The Atlantic said in a statement Saturday that it stand by its retraction of Barrett’s article and plans to file a dismissal of the lawsuit. 

We stand by our full retraction and editor's note from November 2020. We completely reject the allegations and believe the suit is meritless, will be filing a motion to dismiss, and are confident we will ultimately prevail,” The Atlantic said.