Iowa's largest newspaper is in the middle of a firestorm after publishing a report that dug up old, offensive tweets from a local man who raised over $1 million he then donated to charity.
A piece published by the Des Moines Register profiled a 24-year-old Iowan native, Carson King, who became a TV sensation last weekend after he held up a sign at a football game asking people to donate money to him. He requested that they donate the funds through Venmo so he could buy his "supply" of Busch Light.
King went on to raise more than $1 million and donated the money to the University of Iowa's Stead Children's Hospital. Busch Light and Venmo pledged to match King's fundraising efforts.
The newspaper report, however, included a "routine background check" of King's social media history. Register reporter Aaron Calvin came across two racist jokes that dated back to 2012 when King was a 16-year-old high school student, "one comparing black mothers to gorillas and another making light of black people killed in the Holocaust."
King was asked about the tweets and immediately expressed remorse.
"That’s not something that I’m proud of at all," King told the Register on Tuesday.
He appeared on local TV stations to apologize and said, "I am embarrassed and stunned to reflect on what I thought was funny when I was 16 years old."
In light of the tweets, Busch Light's parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, announced that it was severing ties with King but promised to honor its pledge.
After the piece was published Tuesday evening, critics slammed the Register for digging up the tweets.
The Register's Executive Editor Carol Hunter issued a statement responding to the backlash and shed some light on the internal discussion about whether to include details about King's social media posts.
"Should that material be included in the profile at all? The jokes were highly inappropriate and were public posts. Shouldn't that be acknowledged to all the people who had donated money to King's cause or were planning to do so?" Hunter wrote.
Hunter went on to defend the paper's decision to include such information, noting that it was toward the bottom of the profile and not placed prominently at the top.
"The news conference was covered by local television stations, which first reported on the racist posts and King's remorse. After those stories aired, Busch Light's parent company announced it would honor its pledge to the children's hospital but would sever future ties with King," Hunter continued. "That happened before the Register published its profile of King, which was still in the editing process."
WHO-TV's Keith Murphy reported late Tuesday night that King found out at 2:16 p.m. local time that Busch Light was severing ties with him and that the press conference he held wasn't until 7 p.m., which appears to differ from Hunter's claim that local television stations were the "first" to report about the tweets.
This also suggests that the tweets were brought to the beer company's attention before King made public statements about them. And fingers were being pointed at the Register by critics.
After the piece stirred up controversy on social media, critics then performed a "routine background check" on reporter Aaron Calvin's social media footprint and found several insensitive tweets of his own.
In now-deleted tweets from 2010-2013, Calvin repeatedly used the N-word, and wrote posts attacking law enforcement like "f--- all cops," and in reaction to the legalization of gay marriage said he's "totally going to marry a horse."
Before locking his Twitter account, Calvin issued an apology for his own tweets.
"Hey just wanted to say that I have deleted previous tweets that have been inappropriate or insensitive. I apologize for not holding myself to the same standards as the Register holds others," Calvin wrote.
The Register later tweeted that it was "aware of reports of inappropriate social media posts" by Calvin and an "investigation has begun."
Calvin and the paper did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.
Despite the uproar, King defended the paper and its reporter.
"The Des Moines Register has been nothing but kind in all of their coverage, and I appreciate the reporter pointing out the post to me," King tweeted. "I want everyone to understand that this was my decision to publicly address the posts and apologize. I believe that is the right thing to do."
In a statement to Fox News, King expressed that he didn't want "any of this negativity to hinder with the amazing work everyone has done for the hospital."