Iowa reporter who exposed charity fundraiser’s historic racist tweets fired for his own offensive posts
An Iowa newspaper reporter who exposed racist tweets by a charity fundraiser has found himself out of a job after his own offensive posts were uncovered.
Aaron Calvin, a journalist for the Des Moines Register, began looking into sports fan Carson King when his jovial plea for beer money turned into a national fundraiser for a children’s hospital.
But his profile of Mr King led to a public backlash and the newspaper was forced to hire extra security after receiving threats.
Public scrutiny turned to Mr Calvin himself, who left the newspaper after it emerged he had made comments mocking same-sex marriage and used a racial slur.
Mr King gained national fame on September 14, when his hand-drawn sign for donations for his "Busch Light Supply" at an Iowa State University American football game was featured in the background of a TV broadcast.
He initially received around $600 (£488) from amused spectators but as donations topped $1 million (£814,650), Mr King said he would donate the money to a University of Iowa children’s hospital.
The company behind Busch Light lager offered their own donation along with a year’s supply of beer for Mr King in with his face printed on the limited-edition cans.
By way of thanks for the $1.8m (£1.5m) funding, Iowa’s governor declared September 28 would be "Carson King Day", saying his "volunteerism and selflessness defines Iowans by nature".
At around the same time, Mr Calvin began writing his profile on the 24-year-old casino security guard and found that Mr King had tweeted two racist jokes about black people while in high school.
Hey Everyone! Just a quick appreciation post for ya ☺️ #ForTheKids pic.twitter.com/y0Gdj2V3Tl
— Carson King (@CarsonKing2) September 26, 2019
Before the piece was published Mr King held a press conference to apologise, saying "I am so embarrassed and stunned to reflect on what I thought was funny when I was 16-years-old".
He emphasised that 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".
"Thankfully, high school kids grow up and hopefully become responsible and caring adults," he added.
The Register is aware of reports of inappropriate social media posts by one of our staffers, and an investigation has begun.
— Des Moines Register (@DMRegister) September 25, 2019
The development led Busch Light to distance itself from Mr King, thought it said it would still honour its $350,000 donation.
However online supporters of Mr King turned on the newspaper, criticising its decision to cover his teenage posts. Attention turned to Mr Calvin’s own Twitter profile and it emerged the reporter himself had made offensive comments about race, same-sex marriage and domestic abuse.
Mr Calvin deleted the tweets and apologised "for not holding myself to the same high standards as the Register holds others."
The paper’s editor, Carol Hunter, announced that Mr Calvin was no longer with the paper and that its "social media vetting" for employees would be re-examined.