Des Moines Register reporter out after offensive tweets

Editor Carol Hunter wrote in a column posted online Thursday night that reporter Aaron Calvin "is no longer with the Register."

Posted: Sep 27, 2019 5:21 AM
Updated: Sep 27, 2019 10:48 AM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Des Moines Register reporter is no longer employed by the paper after his past offensive social media posts were highlighted following his reporting on an Iowa man who turned a plea for beer money into a fundraiser for a children's hospital.

Editor Carol Hunter wrote in a column posted online Thursday night that reporter Aaron Calvin "is no longer with the Register."

The Register began investigating comments made by Calvin on Twitter after his story about casino security guard Carson King sparked outrage. The story profiled King, who gained national fame after he held a sign seeking beer money during an ESPN show. As donations topped $1 million, King said he'd donate the money to a University of Iowa children's hospital.

Calvin's story noted King had posted two racist tweets more than seven years ago, when he was a teenager. People angered by the story found old tweets from Calvin that made offensive comments about race, gay marriage and other topics.

Calvin couldn't be reached for comment. His Twitter account is no longer open to the public.

Before locking his account, Calvin tweeted, "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 high standards as the Register holds others."

Hunter declined to specify if Calvin had been fired.

In her column, Hunter also addressed criticism that the Register had looked into King's past and decided to note the old tweets near the end of an otherwise laudatory profile.

The paper opted to do the story following King's sudden fame after holding a sign reading "Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished" along with his account at Venmo, a digital payment company. After money began pouring in and King announced his charity plans, Busch brewer Anheuser-Busch, Venmo and other companies added payments and donations soared past $1 million.

Anheuser-Bush later withdrew its support of King but promised to honor its donation promise.

In her column, Hunter said that no one at the paper had contacted Anheuser-Busch and that the brewer made its decision after King held a news conference to acknowledge the tweets but before the Register had posted its story.

Hunter also said the experience has prompted the Register to examine its procedures for publishing information about story subjects relating to their actions as juveniles, its reporting on social media more generally and its screening policies and "social media vetting" for employees.

Hunter noted, however, that the Register was obligated to do background reporting on its story subjects.

"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," Hunter wrote.

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