Des Moines Register reporter out for old racist tweets after digging up tweets of Iowan philanthropist
The Des Moines Register announced Thursday that the reporter who found years-old offensive tweets by a local man who raised $1 million for charity is no longer with the paper.
The paper's executive editor Carol Hunter published an op-ed on Thursday night and informed readers that Aaron Calvin, the journalist behind the controversial profile about 24-year-old Carson King, is "no longer with the Register."
Social media found past offensive tweets on his own Twitter account after the story was published. 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."
Hunter wrote that Register employees "must review and agree to a company-wide social media policy that includes a statement that employees 'do not post comments that include discriminatory remarks, harassment, threats of violence or similar content.'"
"We took appropriate action because there is nothing more important in journalism than having readers’ trust," she wrote.
Hunter, who previously released a statement on Tuesday night in response to the outcry the piece received, further explained the rationale that went behind the decision of including information about the tweets King made when he was 16 years old.
"Our initial stories drew so much interest that we decided to write a profile of King, to help readers understand the young man behind the handmade sign and the outpouring of donations to the children’s hospital. The Register had no intention to disparage or otherwise cast a negative light on King," Hunter wrote. "In doing backgrounding for such a story, reporters talk to family, friends, colleagues or professors. We check court and arrest records as well as other pertinent public records, including social media activity. The process helps us to understand the whole person."
"As journalists, we have the obligation to look into matters completely, to aid the public in understanding the people we write about and in some cases to whom money is donated."
The editor then addressed the disputed timeline regarding the Register's reporting on King's tweets and Busch Light's decision to sever ties with King. Hunter went on to claim that the news coverage surrounding the tweets had nothing to do with the beer company's pullout.
"As it turned out, our decision-making process [of including the tweets in the profile] was preempted when King held his evening news conference to discuss his tweets and when Busch Light’s parent company announced it would sever its future ties with King," Hunter continued. "King told us later that Busch Light representatives had called him early Tuesday afternoon to say the company was severing any future relationship. Neither the Register nor King had notified the company about the tweets. Busch Light made its decision independently of any news coverage on the tweets."
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Hunter's op-ed drew even further outrage for not including an apology to King. Others called for the firing of the editors behind the piece.
King 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.
He 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 profile, however, included a "routine background check" of King's social media history, which included 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."
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Despite the uproar the Register created for including those tweets, 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."