The Des Moines Register and Anheuser-Busch are receiving backlash from Iowans after one of the newspaper’s reporters dug into the past of an Iowa State Cyclone fan who made national news by raising over a million dollars for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
24-year-old Carson King was in the audience at ESPN Gameday before the September 14th Iowa/Iowa State football game in Ames. He was seen on television holding up a sign asking for money to be sent to his Venmo account to pay for Busch Light. Donations began to mount, and King announced he would donate all the money to the Children’s Hospital. Venmo and Busch Light each agreed to match whatever amount King raised, and the total eventually grew to over $1,000,000.
On Thursday, Register reporter Aaron Calvin contacted King about racially insensitive tweets King sent when he was 16 years old. The tweets were references to the Comedy Central show Tosh.0. King called a news conference to apologize for the tweets hours before the Register profile was published online.
Online backlash began almost immediately, with numerous Twitter and Facebook users questioning why the Register felt the need to find negative comments from King’s past. Many said they were planning to cancel their Register subscriptions, with others saying they were going to donate the price of a subscription to King’s fundraising efforts. Some people began sharing screenshots of old tweets from Calvin, which included racial slurs, anti-gay remarks and obscenity-laced comments about law enforcement officers.
Keith Murphy of WHO-TV reported that sometime Thursday afternoon…before King’s news conference…an unknown subject contacted Anheuser-Busch, which had been planning to sell beer cans and t-shirts with King’s likeness, to report the tweets. The beer giant deleted its previous tweets mentioning King and said it was breaking ties with him. That decision was met with more backlash online, with many people saying they planned to boycott all Anheuser-Busch products.
Late Tuesday night the Register issued a statement defending Calvin and the decision to conduct what it called a “background check” on King. A short time later the newspaper issued a second statement saying they had been made aware of Calvin’s earlier tweets, and an investigation was underway.
Calvin tweeted an apology of his own for his earlier controversial tweets, and later switched his Twitter status to protected.