Staffers for an annual charity bike ride run by Iowa’s largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register, submitted resignations over the paper’s handling of a story about sudden philanthropist Carson King, according to an announcement Tuesday.
Last month, the Register faced major backlash over a profile of King, the 24-year-old Iowa man who ended up raising over $3 million for a children’s hospital after he became a viral sensation for holding a sign asking people to donate money to his Venmo account so he could buy beer. That profile, however, included information about offensive tweets he had written in high school. Busch Light, which had announced a fundraising partnership with King, later severed its ties to him.
The paper denied its reporting was responsible for the beer company’s decision, as critics said scouring King’s social media presence for offensive old tweets was inappropriate in this case.
In a now-deleted post on the Facebook page for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), then-director TJ Juskiewicz alleged that the paper “refused to offer me the opportunity to openly speak to the RAGBRAI Nation, and answer the hundreds of passionate questions asked about the future of RAGBRAI following the Des Moines Register’s handling of the Carson King story.”
He also claimed he could not reach out to riders because “it did not mesh with the company’s PR narrative to spin the Carson King embarrassment,” adding that leadership at the Register didn’t want to “issue any more public statements on this matter” and that RAGBRAI was offered “talking points” to use on the subject of the King story.
He wrote in response, “I can no longer be an effective leader when my principles are compromised by the leadership of Gannett/Des Moines Register.”
Juskiewicz vowed to lead his own event called “Iowa’s Ride,” which has been scheduled for the same time as next year’s RAGBRAI event, KTIV reported.
The Register reported Tuesday that RAGBRAI will still happen next year, specifying that “the marketing team” behind the event had resigned.
“We’ll continue RAGBRAI’s longstanding tradition in 2020 with another great bicycle ride and strong partnerships with Iowa communities to raise money for good causes. Our commitment remains to donate $50,000 to the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital,” an official from the Register’s parent company, Gannett, said. “We’re proud of the good RAGBRAI has done for the state since 1973.”
RAGBRAI was founded by two Register columnists and has grown to gather 10,000 riders from across the country.
The Register did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
The controversy surrounding the King piece grew bigger after Aaron Calvin, the journalist who reported on the tweets, was blasted for his own social-media posts deemed offensive. The Register ultimately fired him.