Mean meme with ClemsonLIFE grad's image outrages family - FOX Carolina 21

Mean meme with ClemsonLIFE grad's image outrages family

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Image of Rion Holcombe, who captured hearts in 2013 after his Clemson acceptance video went viral, has been used in a derogatory meme, family members said (Courtesy: Susan Holcombe) Image of Rion Holcombe, who captured hearts in 2013 after his Clemson acceptance video went viral, has been used in a derogatory meme, family members said (Courtesy: Susan Holcombe)
ANDERSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

A moment of unbridled joy as Rion Holcombe opened his acceptance letter for the ClemsonLIFE program went viral in 2013 - now his family said an image from that video has gone viral for a very different reason. 

Holcombe, who participated in the special needs-geared college program and graduated from Clemson last year, became famous after his mother posted the video of him opening his acceptance letter. Various news outlets, both local and national, picked up the story. But his family said they were recently made aware of a hateful internet meme, which FOX Carolina has elected not to publish, that uses Holcombe's image from the video and mocks him and others with special needs.

Holcombe's sister published a now-viral blog post about the experience of seeing her brother's image used in such a mean way. 

"When I saw it, it broke my heart," said Molly Holcombe, Rion's younger sister who attends Anderson University. She said her brother, who has Down Syndrome, is sweet and kind. 

Holcombe said friends brought the meme to her attention, and together she and others reported it to Facebook. The social media site replied to their complaint, saying the image did not violate Facebook's community guidelines. Still, the page that posted the meme has since been deactivated. 

FOX Carolina reached out to Facebook for clarification regarding its community guidelines, but did not receive a response. 

Holcombe said the original post contained hurtful comments from strangers. "All of them were just tagging their friends, laughing," said Molly Holcombe. "Just making these horrible jokes about my brother. Laughing at my brother for something he can't control, taking one of the most joyful moments of his life and turning it into something horrible," she said. 

ClemsonLIFE also weighed in on the situation. Dr. Joseph B. Ryan, Executive Director of ClemsonLIFE said in part:

As a bullying prevention trainer, I can assure you the hurt and pain Rion and his family felt as well as everyone else with a disability who saw this meme was very real, and very painful...please be vigilant for cyberbullying on social media, and report it whenever and wherever it occurs.

Rion Holcombe and his parents were not available for comment, though his mother called the incident a "setback" in the way people with special needs, particularly Down Syndrome, are regarded. She said she and others have much work to do.

MORE NEWS: Police: Video showed special needs student being harassed, attacked on school bus

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