Actor Ed Helms is best known for comedic roles in TV’s “The Office” and “The Hangover” movies, but he got serious when he addressed Rolling Stone magazine’s recanted rape story in a speech at the University of Virginia.
“It has been said that a rolling stone gathers no moss,” Helms said in remarks at UVA’s Valedictory Exercises Friday. “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,” Helms 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.”
He was referring to a story by Sabrina Rubin Erdley in Rolling Stone headlined “A Rape on Campus,” which was retracted after an investigation by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism last month. The investigation concluded the piece was a “journalistic failure” and cited errors in reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.
In addition to the remarks Helms directed at Rolling Stone, he took aim at the broadcast networks for using labels like “thug” in covering the Baltimore riots.
“The reductive labels aren’t helping and we better stop applying them, because there are a lot of Americans in a lot of pain,” Helms said. “We try to define others with simple labels because it makes the world easier to understand.”
“We’re all guilty of this,” he added. “How many times do we label someone with our first impressions only to be proven wrong? The tattooed motorcycle guy who turns out to be a teddy bear, the buttoned-up co-worker who actually knows how to party, or the mousy librarian who takes off her glasses to reveal she’s a bloodthirsty alien from a distant galaxy.”
Helms also warned the students they were facing a job market that would make it “like the ‘Hunger Games’ out there.”
Watch the video below of Helms’ speech below.