Report: Facebook's Zuckerberg Pushed A Top Executive To Publicly Disavow Support For Trump, Then Fired Him

A portrait of Facebook found Mark Zuckerberg is seen on an iPhone in this photo illustration on 28 August, 2017.
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In one of the most shocking stories to get little media coverage this year, The Wall Street Journal reported ten days ago that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pressured a top executive at his company to apologize for his support of President Trump in the 2016 election, and issue a letter just before that election explaining that he had switched his support to libertarian Gary Johnson.

According to reporters Kirsten Grind and Keach Hagey, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey says that he was put on leave and then fired for his support for Trump. The Journal reported:

In the fall of 2016, as unhappiness over the donation simmered, Facebook executives including Mr. Zuckerberg pressured Mr. Luckey to publicly voice support for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, despite Mr. Luckey’s yearslong support of Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the conversations and internal emails viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Luckey ended up negotiating a $100 million settlement, an acceleration of stock awards and bonuses that he would have received thanks to his sale of Oculus VR to Facebook in 2014. Facebook, for its part, denied that Luckey was fired for his political views. But Luckey was a supporter of President Trump’s for years, going back to 2011, when he urged Trump to run for president by mail. In September 2016, The Daily Beast reported that Luckey had given a $10,000 donation to NimbleAmerica, an anti-Hillary ad group focused on trolling the Democratic candidate. Luckey then apparently posted on a Reddit chain under a pseudonym regarding Clinton:

Hillary Clinton is corrupt, a warmonger, a freedom-stripper. Not the good kind you see dancing in bikinis on Independence day, the bad kind that strips freedom from citizens and grants it to donors.

Facebook employees complained about Luckey both via message boards and at a town hall, with engineering director Srinivas Narayanan writing, “Multiple women have literally teared up in front of me in the last few days,” and some developers stating that they wouldn’t work with Luckey. Luckey denied he had posted about Clinton under a pseudonym, and added that he was a libertarian who would vote for Gary Johnson.

The Journal report continues:

“I need to tell you that Mark [Zuckerberg] himself drafted this and details are critical,” Facebook Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal wrote to a lawyer for Mr. Luckey in a September 2016 email, attaching an early draft of the statement, according to the emails reviewed by the Journal. The draft said Mr. Luckey wouldn’t be supporting Mr. Trump in the election. Mr. Luckey has told people he did vote for Mr. Johnson, but only to avoid having his credibility questioned if he was asked about the issue under oath in unrelated litigation. The apology went through many drafts, and Mr. Luckey ultimately approved changes suggested by Facebook, according to people familiar with the process.

Facebook has consistently denied political bias in its programming. But Zuckerberg himself has admitted the company’s left-leaning tendencies, explaining to Congress that Silicon Valley is an “extremely left-leaning place.” Conservative companies have accused Facebook of tailoring its algorithms politically, damaging conservative traffic particularly in early 2017; according to Western Journal, Facebook has now corrected its algorithms to distribute traffic more equitably. Still, Silicon Valley’s overwhelming Leftist bias has been on full display in cases ranging from Twitter’s banning process to Google’s firing of James Damore. The story of Palmer Luckey is just another black mark on Silicon Valley’s record.

What's Your Reaction?