A Des Moines Register reporter is finding out the hard way that cancel culture works both ways. If someone is reporting about another’s ugly tweets on Twitter from many years ago, that someone better check his own social media posts first.
You may have seen Carson King on Fox and Friends last weekend. He turned a silly stunt at a college football game into a jaw-dropping act of charity. The 24-year-old King held up a sign asking for money to buy more Busch Light beer. It was funny. His gesture went viral after he was captured on camera. The college football game was seen by a large audience because it was a part of ESPN’s “College GameDay”. In case you are curious, the game was between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Iowa State Cyclones.
The sign stunt happened on September 14. After it went viral, donations began pouring in. No one was more surprised than King. He got a lot of publicity and the story was told on FOX, which increased his donations. He told the audience that he was donating the money to the University of Iowa’s Stead Children’s Hospital. Venmo and Anheuser-Busch both pledged to match his donation. King appeared on Fox and Friends last weekend to announce he was almost at the $1 million mark. Busch Light cans were made with his picture on them. King was even promised a year’s supply of Busch Light from the company. Anheuser-Busch labeled King an Iowa Legend.
“Hey @CarsonKing2, we said we’d send you a year’s worth of Busch Light, but first we had to make sure the cans were fit for a King. Let us know where to send the truck. #IowaLegend,” Anheuser-Busch tweeted.
— Carson King (@CarsonKing2) September 21, 2019
It’s a great story, right? The story brings together an imaginative young man playfully asking for beer money who then turns it around into a grand gesture for a children’s hospital. The corporate guys stepped up and matched his donation. Well, hold on. As my mom used to say, no good deed goes unpunished.
The Des Moines Register picked up the story and published a piece on Carson King. Included in the piece were two tweets from when King was 16 years old. The tweets were racial. The tweets were uncovered during a “routine background check”, according to the newspaper.
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.”
He was 16 then and now he’s 24. A lot of maturity happens in those years. King clearly has turned out to be a good guy who shares his good fortune with those in need. When asked about the two tweets, King immediately apologized and expressed both embarrassment and remorse.
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.”
Anheuser-Busch severed ties with King, though the company said they will honor the commitment to match his donation.
Readers were not pleased with the newspaper’s trashing of King with the tweets so some did a little investigating of their own. Guess what? The reporter had some less than stellar tweets from younger days, too. The Register’s Executive Editor Carol Hunter issued a lengthy response.
A statement from our editor: pic.twitter.com/ZH9AhcrYbg
— Des Moines Register (@DMRegister) September 25, 2019
Here’s the thing. This is where we are now as a culture. Reporters are eager to do a gotcha element even in the most feel-good kind of stories. Do we hold a 24 year old guy up for doing a good thing or do we trash him with mention of tweets from his years as a teenager. Teenagers say dumb things, that isn’t breaking news. There isn’t any indication that those two tweets represent his life now. The reporter and the newspaper went with the inclusion of the tweets as a gotcha, whether they admit it or not. Would the editor have issued such a tortured statement if readers hadn’t criticized the inclusion of the tweets? Of course not.
Justifiying the decision to include the tweets by saying the mention was way down deep into the article doesn’t matter. It was there. Readers read it. Also, stating the tweets weren’t the headline doesn’t make it right. The reporter points to the admission by King to the press before the piece was published as if it makes the paper’s decision ok.
“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.”
King got out in front of it – he knows how this works. Cancel culture demands the person who offended someone be shunned, preferrably fired from a job. Also, the reporter’s timeline is in question. It looks as though Anheuser-Busch was told about the tweets before King went public.
Carson tells me he knew at 2:16PM that @BuschBeer was severing ties after tweets brought to its attention.
Busch Light Carson King T-shirt links, with proceeds to @UIchildrens, down by 5 PM.
Press conference didn't even start until 7 PM. It was not why Busch ended relationship. https://t.co/blImJXf0vz
— Keith Murphy (@MurphyKeith) September 25, 2019
Turnabout is fair play. It looks as though the Des Moines Register didn’t do such a thorough “background check” on their reporter as the reporter did on his subject. Calvin isn’t innocent here, either, if past tweets are the measure of a man.
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 newspaper is now investigating Calvin. King, meanwhile, has been nothing but gracious in his reaction to the newspaper. He is taking the high road.
“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.”