- Facebook has denied firing the executive Palmer Luckey for his right-wing views.
- The Wall Street Journal on Sunday linked the firing of Luckey, the founder of Oculus, to fallout from his donation of $US10,000 to a group that posted anti-Hillary Clinton memes.
- The Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth has strongly denied that Luckey’s firing was over politics, as has a spokeswoman.
- A wider culture war is taking place in Silicon Valley, with most tech firms viewed as having liberal views.
Facebook has denied firing one of its senior executives for his conservative views.
The Wall Street Journal on Sunday linked the departure of Palmer Luckey to a The Daily Beast report that he had donated $US10,000 to an anti-Hillary Clinton group and to his longtime support of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Citing leaked emails, The Journal said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had even pressured Luckey to publicly switch his support from Trump to the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. The newspaper said Luckey was put on leave after his donation and then fired in March 2017. He reportedly negotiated a $US100 million payout after hiring an employment lawyer to argue Facebook had broken California law.
Luckey believes that he was fired from Facebook because of his political views, the newspaper reported. Trump is largely unpopular in Silicon Valley, where most tech employees support liberal candidates, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics’ website, Open Secrets.
Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook executive who now oversees the Oculus division, issued a series of tweets Sunday denying that Luckey had been fired for his conservative beliefs, calling the idea “false.”
Asked on Twitter whether he thought Luckey was an anonymous source for The Journal’s story, Bosworth wrote: “I honestly have no idea who their sources are, just that what was shared was not the truth and that the information provided appears to have been carefully selected to lead the reporters to one specific, and erroneous, conclusion.”
Facebook likewise denied Luckey had been fired for supporting Trump. “We can say unequivocally that Palmer’s departure was not due to his political views,” a spokeswoman told The Journal. “We’re grateful for Palmer’s contributions to Oculus, and we’re glad he continues to actively support the VR industry.”
Sources speaking with The Journal suggested the tension might have centered not on Luckey’s beliefs themselves but on the perception that he had misled Facebook over his donation to a group that posted memes maligning Hillary Clinton.
Luckey, who did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment, told The Journal: “I believe the team that remains at Oculus is still the best in the VR industry, and I am rooting for them to succeed.”
Conservative figures in California, such as Peter Thiel, have long argued that Silicon Valley tech firms are dominated by liberal viewpoints and that different views are stifled. Google’s firing of James Damore, an employee who wrote an inflammatory memo about women, was seen as a watershed moment. Brian Amerige, a former Facebook engineer, likewise quit the firm and claimed it had an “intolerant” culture.