Robert VerBruggen vs. transgender people

Robert Allen VerBruggen (born March 28, 1984) is an American journalist. He was Editor-In-Chief of Northwestern University‘s conservative student publication The Northwestern Chronicle when it published defamatory statements about me in 2005 that he later retracted. VerBruggen’s unprofessional response was more troubling in many ways than the initial error.


Since 2003, I have been a vocal critic of Northwestern’s former psychology department chair, J. Michael Bailey, primarily because of the way he exploits sex and gender minorities, especially children.

Unlike the real student newspaper The Daily Northwestern, contributors to the Chronicle posted articles that apparently received little or no journalistic oversight from VerBruggen or his staff before publication. When VerBruggen allowed Bailey to post a rambling defense of his questionable research and ethics, VerBruggen wrote, “To my knowledge, it is the first professor-written article we’ve ever run. There are of course conflicts with this setup, especially in that he is both a source and a writer” [emphasis added]. The Chronicle also listed Bailey as staff.

“Raw Data”

The Chronicle published many pieces under the title “Raw Data,” which apparently meant any unsubstantiated, unedited materials a staff member chose to put on the Chronicle website.

As an example, VerBruggen ran a 12 October 2005 story mentioning me. It contained libelous claims that I filed for bankruptcy and other defamation. The article was written by internet troll Willow Arune and put online by Bailey. VerBruggen’s predecessor was was still listed on the Chronicle site as editor, and she was smart enough to remove the article in question immediately upon receipt of my complaint. VerBruggen was clearly upset by this, writing:

I apologize that our former editor took it upon herself to resolve the situation. It was not her place to.

I also apologize for posting the article without reading it more closely; I received a handful of documents meant to complement the story as raw data, so I did not edit them. I presumed the person who gave them to me would have the evidence necessary to support the statements.

I have removed the section of the account pertaining to bankruptcy, and I apologize for its initial inclusion.

VerBruggen was apparently more upset about the previous editor usurping his authority than about shirking his duties as an editor. When I asked for the name of his advisor at Medill and pointed out that contributor and “self-confessed eccentric” Willow Arune claims to be an international fugitive charged in a multimillion dollar forgery, VerBruggen started getting a little snippy:

Anything you want to resolve, you will discuss directly with me.


On 15 October 2005, VerBruggen printed a tepid retraction:

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous posting of this article contained an assessment of Andrea James’ financial situation. James has asserted this assessment was not accurate, and the Chronicle has no independent evidence that it was. (Willow Arune had previously made the same assessment in Transgender Tapestry).

Upon reading VerBruggen’s retraction, the Transgender Tapestry subscription manager confirmed these libelous claims by Arune do not appear anywhere in their publication. Once again, the Chronicle had no independent evidence (to use VerBruggen’s phrase), and this time the bogus reporting was written by VerBruggen himself.

VerBruggen dragged another publication’s name into his mess with his irrelevant and unjournalistic justification for his earlier misstep. On 25 October, VerBruggen finally retracted his parenthetical excuse:

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous posting of this article contained an assessment of Andrea James’ financial situation. James has asserted this assessment was not accurate, and the Chronicle has no independent evidence that it was. The Chronicle regrets the error, especially because the issue is irrelevant to the topics discussed in J. Michael Bailey’s article.

It appears VerBruggen saw this “Editor-In-Chief” title as more of a way to pad a résumé than an actual journalistic responsibility. Pseudoscientists like Bailey will continue to get uncritical carte blanche coverage and “balance” as long as editors like Robert VerBruggen exist.

VerBruggen went on to be a book editor at the conservative Washington Times and has held Managing Editor positions as The American Conservative and the National Review.


VerBruggen, Robert. Correspondence with the author. 13-14 October 2005.

VerBruggen, Robert. From the editor. Northwestern Chronicle. 25 October 2005. [archive]

Staff profile for J. Michael Bailey. Northwestern Chronicle. Retrieved 25 October 2005. [archive]

  • Bailey JM. Academic McCarthyism. Northwestern Chronicle. 9 October 2005. [archive]

VerBruggen’s former personal site: [not archived]

VerBruggen on Muck Rack:

VerBruggen on Twitter: