UPDATE: AP reports that Oberst filed a defamation suit against the accuser earlier today (2/19):
The suit claims the woman behind the accusations was a liar who made “despicable, false, outrageous, and defamatory statements” about Oberst last December.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they were sexually assaulted.
Oberst’s lawsuit says the woman posted accusations that Oberst raped her a decade ago in North Carolina after his brother, her middle school English teacher, introduced the two at an Oberst show. The lawsuit says she also claimed Oberst punched her in the face and that she was 16 at the time.
Oberst, an Omaha, Neb., resident best known for his work with Bright Eyes, is seeking monetary damages, attorney fees and other costs.
He says the media coverage that resulted from the three posts in the comments section of a blog has damaged his career, especially in New York where most of the major music publishing houses are headquartered. He says he was in the company of his brother, bandmates or then-girlfriend at the time of the claims. The suit also says the woman who made positive social media comments about Oberst in the past decade.
TMZ adds that Oberst is suing for over $1 million and claims he never even met the woman.
Last month, an anonymous commenter responded to an XOJane article that detailed what it’s like to date an abusive rock star: “I was raped by a ’rock star’ myself. I was 16 years old, he was in his 20s. No one believed me (he wasn’t even that famous then). No one believed me because I had been his biggest fan for several years at that point, his pictures covered my locker, etc. I guess when I made the accusation, everyone thought it was some sick & twisted way to get… I don’t know, closer to him?” Later, she claimed that the rock star in question was Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst and told a harrowing tale about going to meet him backstage 10 years ago, alleging that her English teacher was Oberst’s older brother and that the teacher made an introduction as a 16th birthday present to the commenter. A Tumblr user posted the story a few days ago, and it’s since gone viral. And now Oberst’s publicist has made a public response:
Usually we wouldn’t feel the urge to comment on spurious blog chatter but the recent allegations made about Conor Oberst by an anonymous commenter on the xoJane website are flagrant enough to demand our response. This individual’s accusations are absolutely, unequivocally false. Unfortunately, the internet allows for groundless statements like this to travel the world before the truth has any time to surface. This is a particularly serious and sickening allegation and there is no truth to it. Conor has nothing but abhorrence for the perpetrators of such crimes of sexual violence. The behavior attributed to him by this individual is in direct opposition to his principles. Conor is consulting with a libel attorney regarding this matter.
In her story about the alleged rape, which you can read here, the commenter wrote that she barely told anyone about it at the time, and even her own mother didn’t believe her for years. And she’ll never be able to prove the truth of her story — she doesn’t even seem particularly interested in doing so — but Oberst will almost certainly never be able to prove his own innocence either. Regardless of truth, a story like this can haunt a performer for an entire career; we had internal discussions at Stereogum as to whether we should post the story. But this one, in particular, has virtually no middle ground to it: Either Oberst is the victim of a terrible and malicious trolling hoax, or he’s a titanic criminal scumbag. Also worth noting: The commenter apparently started her own Tumblr to talk about the rape, but she’s since deleted it.