Mark Zuckerberg defended Facebook board member and Trump advisor Peter Thiel during a Q&A with students from North Carolina A&T State University on Monday.
The Facebook CEO offered up his defence of Thiel, a billionaire venture capitalist and early Facebook investor, in response to a question about how the company “maintains a free and safe environment for the expression of all thoughts and feelings.”
He also said that calls to kick Thiel off Facebook’s board of directors, because of his ties to Donald Trump, are “crazy.”
“We have a board member who is an advisor to the Trump administration, Peter Thiel,” Zuckerberg said during the hour-long Q&A on Monday, which was live streamed on his Facebook page. “And I personally believe that if you want to have a company that is committed to diversity, you need to be committed to all kinds of diversity, including ideological diversity.”
“I think the folks who are saying we shouldn’t have someone on our board because they’re a Republican, I think that’s crazy,” he continued. “I think you need to have all kinds of diversity if you want to make progress together as a society.”
Zuckerberg’s visit to North Carolina was part of his goal to visit every US state by the end of 2017. So far, he’s visited several southern states, including Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Monday’s comments are not the first time Zuckerberg has defended Thiel. In an internal Facebook memo from October 2016, Zuckerberg addressed employee concerns about Thiel’s involvement with the Trump campaign.
“We can’t create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate,” he wrote at the time. “There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or accepting sexual assault. It may be because they believe strongly in smaller government, a different tax policy, health care system, religious issues, gun rights or any other issue where he disagrees with Hillary.”
Thiel donated to Trump’s campaign and organised an early meeting with top tech executives at Trump Tower in December, which Zuckerberg did not attend. Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives have spoken out against Trump’s policies, including his first executive order on immigration.
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