Funnyman Ed Helms slammed Rolling Stone magazine for publishing a now-discredited campus rape story during a portion of the actor/comedian’s commencement speech at the University of Virginia graduation ceremonies.
Helms is best known for his TV role as Andy Bernard in The Office sitcom and as Stu Price in The Hangover movie trilogy.
Last month, Rolling Stone officially retracted (and removed from its website) the gang rape story called “A Rape on Campus” that purportedly occurred in September 2012 at a University of Virginia frat house in which a student known only as Jackie was sexually assaulted according to the article. Prior to the formal retraction, Charlotteville, Va., police found no evidence that any such sexual assault occurred, after various news outlets questioned the Rolling Stone account’s accuracy, and the narrative began collapsing.
The Columbia Journalism School, which looked into the matter on behalf of Rolling Stone, called the hoax a journalistic failure that extended to “reporting, editing, editorial supervision, and fact-checking.”
Helms seized upon his UVA commencement speech opportunity Friday night to address the Rolling Stone scandal to the sound of laughter and applause.
“…Now 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. 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. And sadly, Rolling Stone‘s rushed to define is just the tip of the iceberg — we see it everywhere in the media…”
Among other things, Helms also chided cable news networks for using “reductive labels” such as the word thug in their coverage of the Baltimore riots.
Earlier this week, a University of Virgina dean filed a $7.8 million defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone and its writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, in part for the way the dean was portrayed as the “chief villain” in the article.
In a 76-page legal complaint, Dean Nicole Eramo suggests among things that Erdely and Rolling Stone were pushing a preconceived ideological narrative about the so-called campus rape culture and allegedly didn’t let any facts get in the way of a good story.
“Erdely and Rolling Stone‘s epic failure of journalism was the result of biased, agenda-driven reporting, repeated failures to heed a multitude of red flags indicating that Jackie was not a credible source, willful inaction that was the product of deliberate decisions not to acquire knowledge of facts that would contradict Jackie’s claims, a purposeful avoidance of the truth, and an utter failure to investigate the accuracy of Jackie’s claims despite a high degree of awareness on the part of Rolling Stone and Erdely that they were probably false…”
The fraternity that was front and center in the debunked UVA account also reportedly plans to sue the publication.
Last month, Erdely issued an apology for the story. Rolling Stone has not fired anyone who played a role in the writing or editing of the UVA rape article, with publisher Jann S. Wenner calling it an “isolated incident.”
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment]