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Zuck pressured Facebook exec to hide his support of Trump–then fired him, says report

Zuck pressured Facebook exec to hide his support of Trump–then fired him, says report
[Photo: Flickr user Alessio Jacona]

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that sources close to Palmer Luckey, the cofounder of virtual reality startup Oculus that Facebook bought in 2016, was fired from the company for his political support of President Trump. In September 2016 it came to light that Luckey donated $10,000 to an anti-Hilary Clinton meme factory. Six months later, Luckey was fired from Facebook–with Mark Zuckerberg subsequently denying that Luckey’s departure had anything to do with politics. But that wasn’t true, according to sources who spoke to the Journal:

Mr. Luckey, it turns out, was put on leave, then fired, according to people familiar with the matter. More recently, he has told people the reason was his support for Donald Trump and the furor that his political beliefs sparked within Facebook and Silicon Valley, some of those people say.

Internal Facebook emails suggest the matter was discussed at the highest levels of the company. 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.

After his dismissal, Luckey hired an employment lawyer who argued that Facebook violated California law by pressuring Luckey to voice support for Gary Johnson and for punishing an employee for his political activity. Luckey and Facebook eventually negotiated a $100 million settlement for his dismissal. Prior to the Journal’s report, the only public comments Luckey made about the nature of his firing were said to CNBC earlier this year, with Luckey stating, “It wasn’t my choice to leave.”

A Facebook spokesperson told the Journal, “We can say unequivocally that Palmer’s departure was not due to his political views. We’re grateful for Palmer’s contributions to Oculus, and we’re glad he continues to actively support the VR industry.” As for Luckey, he would only tell the Journal that the episode was in the past and said, “I believe the team that remains at Oculus is still the best in the VR industry, and I am rooting for them to succeed.”

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