Iowa reporter Aaron Calvin drew the ire of hundreds of social media users this week after a newspaper article he published about a man who raised more than $1 million for a children’s hospital included two decade-old tweets the man sent when he was a teenager.
Angry Twitter and Facebook users were quick to point out that Calvin, who conducted a “routine background check” on 24-year-old Carson King as part of his research on the man’s charitable actions, made more — and far worse — Twitter postings of his own that, among other things, compared same-sex marriage to bestiality and repeatedly used racial epithets about black people.
The Register said it was investigating Calvin’s tweets, many of which were made before he joined the newspaper, and he has not been to work since Tuesday, according to people who spoke with The Desk.
On Thursday, the case took an unusual turn when King took to Twitter to defend the newspaper amid a flurry of social media outrage.
“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 wrote. “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.”
While many commended King for coming to Calvin’s defense, some pointed out that it is one element of a bigger issue — namely, reporters attempting to land “scoops” by surfacing material that damages the character of their subjects and sources.
“Nice of you to say this Carson but that’s not how it’s supposed to work,” Matt Whitlock, a senior advisor to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote. “Doing a good deed shouldn’t result in members of the media trying to cancel you.”
“This is a very mature response, but my question is: Why was the reporter with @DMRegister
going through your 8 year old tweets to begin with?” wrote Lindsey Mills. “I guarantee the intent was not good. You’ve done an amazing thing and we will continue to support you!”
Calvin has not been back to work since the controversy erupted. Sources within the Register newsroom said staffers are divided over how to handle the issue.
“It really boils down to whether or not [Calvin] will have a job at the end of the week,” one staffer, who asked not to be identified, said by text message on Wednesday. “If he does, the paper looks bad. If he doesn’t, the paper looks bad.”