DES MOINES, Iowa — Aaron Calvin, the former Des Moines Register reporter who discovered racially-insensitive tweets by Carson King, has spoken out for the first time since his firing in an interview with BuzzFeed.
The Des Moines Register has heard from thousands of angry readers over the past few days following an article Calvin wrote that referenced 8-year-old tweets from King. Soon after the article was published Tuesday night, people started circulating offensive tweets written by Calvin on his own Twitter account.
In the interview with BuzzFeed, which was Calvin’s former employer from 2013-14, Calvin said he felt is own tweets were “taken out of context” and were used to “wield disingenuous arguments against” him. But he did admit his tweets were “frankly embarrassing” and he wouldn’t have published them today.
After his tweets began circulating, Calvin apologized on Twitter for “not holding myself to the same high standards as the Register holds others.” But according to his interview with BuzzFeed, Calvin said he now regrets the apology. “I regret publishing that tweet now,” Calvin told BuzzFeed News. “Because I was never trying to hold Carson to any kind of ‘higher standard’ or any kind of standard at all. I was trying to do my job as a reporter, and I think I did so to the best of my ability.”
The Des Moines Register said Calvin discovered King’s tweets during a standard background check. Calvin told BuzzFeed he had the approval of senior editors to reference the tweets in the story. Calvin told BuzzFeed he felt obligated to include King’s tweets in the story, but he wanted to include them near the end because he thought they no longer represented King’s worldview. The Des Moines Register stated King showed immediate remorse for the tweets when Calvin presented them to him.
“As I said when I was speaking with Carson, I don’t think people’s past social media statements should be made to make blanket characterizations about them,” Calvin said to BuzzFeed.
Calvin said he was contacted by Register-owner Gannett over his own past tweets. According to Calvin, the Gannett official notified him that he could either resign or be fired, both without severance. Calvin said he opted to be fired and that, “Frankly, it`s really disappointing to me to be abandoned by my former employer.”
Calvin said he has received death threats in the days following the article being published and even fears going out in public.
“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,” Calvin said to BuzzFeed. “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.”
Calvin declined Channel 13’s request for comment.
Read BuzzFeed’s full story here.