Comedian and actor Ed Helms drew laughter with a slew of jokes as he delivered a commencement address at the University of Virginia Friday, but also took time to criticize Rolling Stone for the damage done to the school by its false UVA rape story.
Best known for his roles on The Office and in the Hangover movies, the 41-year-old was invited to address UVA’s 2015 graduating class and spoke in-depth about the dangers of social and economic labels.
After commending the Thomas Jefferson-founded university for its contributions to society through its many noted alumni, Helms unloaded on Rolling Stone for reporting the false story of a brutal gang rape at the hands of a fraternity on UVA’s campus in 2014.
The story, “A Rape on Campus,” written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, described the graphic sexual assault of student who was only identified as “Jackie” at a fraternity party on the school’s campus.
After other media outlets, including Breitbart News, helped to inform the public of the holes in the story, Rolling Stone retracted and apologized, but Helms hasn’t forgotten and made that very clear on Friday.
After talking about his personal experiences with being “defined by outsiders,” Helms told a large group of students before the university’s famed Rotunda:
I know the UVA community has some experience with being defined by outsiders. It has been said that a rolling stone gathers no moss. I would add that sometimes a rolling stone also gathers no verifiable facts or even the tiniest morsels of journalistic integrity.
“Rolling Stone tried to define you this year,” he said. “As a result, not only was this community thrown deep into turmoil, but the incredibly important struggle to address sexual violence on campuses nationwide was suddenly more confusing than ever and needlessly set back. Sadly, Rolling Stone‘s rush to define is just the tip of the iceberg. We see it everywhere in the media.”
“This community didn’t fall for the fallacy that just because Rolling Stone was wrong everything here must be perfectly peachy. You all had the courage to understand you can be outraged at Rolling Stone and still ask yourselves hard questions: if sexual violence does occur in our community, do we have the best possible protocols and resources available to our students? And UVA is charging forward to answer those questions and you should be proud of that.”
Helms finished his commencement speech by asking the new grads to take the world by storm.
“Responsibility is entirely optional, you can coast if you want to, but don’t you dare coast,” he stated, before singing a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”
Watch Helms’ full speech below, where his Rolling Stone remarks begin at around the 9:00 mark:
After “Jackie’s” rape story was disproven late last year, Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana wrote an apology in November, stating:
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.
The University of Virginia’s accused Phi Kappa Psi fraternity announced in April it would be pursuing legal action against RS over the story.