When Ed Helms spoke Friday at the University of Virginia’s valediction ceremony, most of his speech was peppered with jokes. But he did take some time to address Rolling Stone’s retracted story about rape at UVA.
“It has been said that a rolling stone gathers no moss,” Helms said. “I would add that sometimes a rolling stone also gathers no verifiable facts or even the tiniest morsels of journalistic integrity.”
While Helms kept most of his speech light (“I thought it was hard for me to find a job. It’s going to be like The Hunger Games out there for you guys!”), he criticized the Rolling Stone story for not only failing to follow basic journalistic practices but for also hampering conversations about campus sexual assault. Helms’ remarks come just a few days after a UVA dean filed a defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone.
“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.”
Helms also discussed the way the media has covered events like the recent Baltimore riots, criticizing reporters for using words like “thug.” “The reductive labels aren’t helping,” he said.
“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.”
Watch the entire speech below.