The Des Moines Register has fired a reporter who unearthed disturbing racist tweets from an Iowa resident who became internet famous when his solicitation for beer money went viral.
Reporter Aaron Calvin drew heavy criticism for digging into the background of Carson King, the man who appeared on ESPN’s College GameDay holding a sign asking for beer money to be sent to an online payments account. King’s request touched a nerve with the public, and the money rolled in. He subsequently said he would donate the funds to a children’s hospital. He reportedly raised more than $1 million to date.
In the process of reporting a story on King and his activities, Des Moines Register reporter Calvin found some online posts from King’s teen years that quoted the TV show Tosh.0. King made the posts when he was 16-years-old.
Calvin called King for comment on them. But before the Des Moines Register story was published, King held a teary press conference and apologized for the teenage tweets. Local television stations attended and reported the news before the Register story was published.
The apology by King wasn’t enough, and the revelation killed a partnership with Anheuser-Busch, which ended its alliance with him upon learning of his past.
The Register went on to publish its story and made reference to the racist tweets. But the investigation of what appeared to be a feel-good act of kindness sparked outrage in Iowa, with the paper receiving death threats for what some readers felt was an unjustified portrait that destroyed a worthy cause.
After the story hit and the King apology circulated, some looked into reporter Calvin’s background and found some equally disturbing posts. The Register agreed, fired the reporter, and today issued a lengthy explanation of its hiring and news-gathering process, and its subsequent discovery of sin within its own business.
“I want to be as transparent as possible about what we did and why, answer the questions you’ve raised, and tell you what we’ve learned so far and what we’ll try to do better,” said the editorial by Register executive editor Carol Hunter. “For one, we’re revising our policies and practices, including those that did not uncover our own reporter’s past inappropriate social media postings. That reporter is no longer with the Register.”
The Register did not specify what the posts from Calvin were. The Washington Post reported that Calvin’s posts made light of same-sex marriage, abuse of women, and contained a racial slur.
Calvin apologized for the posts and deleted them, according to the Post.