- Facebook employees are outraged after the company’s policy chief, Joel Kaplan, attended the Brett Kavanaugh hearing.
- Kavanaugh and Kaplan are friends, and worked together in the Bush administration.
- Facebook has now apologised, and is holding an internal town hall meeting on Friday to address the crisis.
Facebook is scrambling to contain the fallout after a senior executive’s attendance at Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate last week caused an internal employee uproar.
Joel Kaplan, the company’s policy chief, was visibly seated behind Kavanaugh, Trump’s embattled nominee for the US Supreme Court, as the judge angrily defended himself against allegations of sexual misconduct by multiple women. (He declined to comment on the day when approached by a Business Insider reporter.)
Kaplan and Kavanaugh are friends, having worked together in the Bush administration, and he was there in a personal capacity – but his appearance has enraged employees, and company leadership screwed up its initial response. News of the employee uproar was first reported by The New York Times.
“There is absolutely no such thing as personal capacity when you’re a high level manage/executive at the company … I might feel uncomfortable sharing the workplace with this person now,” one employee wrote in a message seen by Business Insider.
“I think having the VP of the company sit in support of someone with sexual assault allegations is inappropriate,” another said.
In a statement, Facebook spokesperson Bertie Thomson told Business Insider that the company plans to hold a townhall meeting on Friday to address the issue, and acknowledged the company screwed up in its internal response.
“Sexual assault is an issue society has turned a blind eye to for far too long – compounding every victim’s pain,” she said. “Our leadership team recognises that they have made mistakes handling the events of the last week and we’re grateful for all the feedback from our employees.”
According to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees that Kaplan hadn’t broken any rules by attending – but that he would not have done so himself.
In one internal message quoted by The Times, a Facebook employee railed against Kaplan’s attendance: “Let’s assume for a minute that our VP of Policy understands how senate hearings work… His seat choice was intentional, knowing full well that journalists would identify every public figure appearing behind Kavanaugh.
“He knew that this would cause outrage internally, but he knew that he couldn’t get fired for it. This was a protest against our culture, and a slap in the face to his fellow employees.”
Kaplan reportedly subsequently apologised in an internal note: “”I want to apologise. I recognise this moment is a deeply painful one – internally and externally … I believe in standing by your friends, especially when times are tough for them.”
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