A Des Moines Register reporter at the center of a cancel culture controversy spawned by his investigation of an Iowa man who sparked a charity drive by soliciting beer money has spoken out.
In an interview with Buzzfeed on Friday, reporter Aaron Calvin said that “this event basically set my entire life on fire.” He blamed “right-wing ideologues” for his dismissal from the Register and claimed to be oppressed like “women and journalists of color.”
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Calvin told Buzzfeed that he was ordered to investigate the background of Carson King, who became internet famous for holding up a sign soliciting beer money on ESPN’s College GameDay. The stunt caught fire with the public, and massive amounts of money began to roll in to the payment account King noted on his sign. He subsequently said he would donate the money to a children’s hospital.
The move attracted the attention of Anheuser-Busch, which said it would match the donations. That pushed the collected fundraising north of $1 million.
But Calvin’s investigation of King while compiling a profile for the Register uncovered some tweets the 24-year-old had done when he was 16 years old. The tweets were quotes allegedly taken from the Tosh.0 TV show and reportedly contained racist themes.
When Calvin called King for comment on the tweets, King immediately called a press conference and confessed to his online sins. TV stations reported the news first, before the Register published its own story, but the press conference alone was enough to have Anheuser-Busch drop its association with King.
Angry citizens noted the Register’s role in ruining the feel-good story, and investigated Calvin’s own social media history. When equally disturbing tweets were discovered, he was dismissed from the Register.
Calvin said of his investigation on the King tweets, “I knew if I found them, other people would find them as well.” He claimed his editors, the editorial board and Register executive editor Carol Hunter knew and approved of including the tweets information in the King profile.
Calvin said his own questionable tweets were “taken out of context.” They reportedly included a racial epithet, attacks on gay marriage, and hate against police officers. He apologized for his own tweets and said he was “trying to do his job as a reporter” by looking into the Carson King tweets.
“I recognize that I’m not the first person to be doxxed like this — this whole campaign was taken up by right-wing ideologues and largely driven by that force,” he said. “It was just a taste of what I assume that women and journalists of color suffer all the time, but the kind of locality and regional virality of the story made it so intense.”