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As the Reddit Turns: Ex-CEO says Ellen Pao not to blame for firing of key exec

Former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong says co-founder Alexis Ohanian was behind the abrupt dismissal of popular executive Victoria Taylor and let Pao "take the heat," leading to her resignation.

The soap opera-esque drama at Reddit continues.

The latest installment: Former CEO Yishan Wong is accusing the site's co-founder Alexis Ohanian of instigating a firing that led to backlash from users and eventually to the resignation of interim CEO Ellen Pao.

Former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong accuses co-founder Alexis Ohanian of firing popular exec Victoria Taylor, not Ellen Pao, who resigned as interim CEO. Yishan Wong/Twitter

Wong said in a post on Reddit (of course) late Sunday that Ohanian wanted changes to the site's popular "Ask Me Anything" forum that lets users interact with people such as Bill Gates and President Barack Obama. The feature was run by Victoria Taylor, Reddit's well respected director of talent, who also helped numerous volunteer moderators run the message boards that make up the site. Taylor was fired on July 2, and moderators soon revolted -- shutting down dozens of subreddits, each with millions of users. They said Taylor was among the few Reddit executives who helped them run a site read by millions.

Reddit is one of the most trafficked sites on the Web, with nearly 164 million visitors. But the decade-old company has struggled to bridge a divide between Reddit the company and Reddit's community for years.

Regarded as "the front page of the Internet," the online message board sees itself as a community devoted to free speech. That stance has allowed some of the worst aspects of the Internet to fester on Reddit's site, including the publishing of private photos taken by celebrities, the growth of racist and homophobic groups, and coordination of misogynistic campaigns against prominent women on the Internet.

Now, the company's struggling to find its footing after its CEO, Pao, abruptly stepped down Friday. The site has had three CEOs within a nine-month span.

Not only was there Taylor's firing, but a subsequent apology by Pao who admitted that Reddit Soon after, a three-week old Change.org petition calling for Pao's resignation spiked to more than 200,000 signatures. Pao evenutally stepped down after becoming interim CEO in November when she replaced Wong, who quit over an apparent dispute over office space.

Pao was becoming an unpopular figure with users as Reddit's name was linked to her gender discrimination lawsuit against prestigious venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. She was also instrumental with Reddit banning five controversial community forums, including "FatPeopleHate," claiming it violated a new antiharassment policy and had caused some people to shy away from the site.

Now Pao is being replaced by the company's original CEO, Steve Huffman, who co-founded Reddit with Ohanian in 2005. Wong wrote that when the "hate-train" began against Pao regarding Taylor's firing, Ohanian should have been out front and center and said, "'Ellen Pao did not make this decision, I did.'"

"Instead, he just sat back and let her take the heat," Wong wrote. "That's a stunning lack of leadership and an incredibly s***ty thing to do."

Wong's story of Ohanian's ouster of Taylor may have some truth to it. Ohanian alluded in a Reddit post on Saturday that "It was my decision to change how we work with AMAs and the transition was my failure and I hope we can keep moving forward from that lesson."

And after Pao's resignation on Friday, Ohanian further explained his role in Taylor's firing on Reddit's podcast. The show's title, "About Last Night."

"Basically it was just a big screw up and, at the end of the day, I take a ton of responsibility for that," he said. "I really feel terrible."

Wong, Ohanian, Taylor and Pao were all unavailable for comment.