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Zuckerberg says Facebook employees should tolerate conservative views

Employees got upset after a top exec showed public support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at a hearing over sexual assault allegations.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford And Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Testify To Senate Judiciary Committee
Television cameras were trained on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but many Facebook employees were focused on someone sitting behind him.
Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees Friday that they should support diverse views, according to a source inside the company town hall. The meeting came after one of its senior executives attended a hearing last week as a friend of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Zuckerberg also expressed frustration with the executive's appearance and support for Kavanaugh, the source added.  

Joel Kaplan, vice president for global public policy at Facebook, made an unexpected appearance in support of Kavanaugh during the Sept. 27 hearing that centered on an accusation that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford while the two were in high school. Kaplan sat behind Kavanaugh and in view of television cameras.

Though Kaplan is reportedly close friends with Kavanaugh, his presence at the hearing shocked and angered hundreds of the tech firm's employees, sparking tension within the company, according to reports in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Shortly after the hearing, Facebook employees took to internal discussion boards to express their concerns, igniting a debate within the company.

"I have known Brett and Ashley Kavanaugh for 20 years. They are my and my wife Laura's closest friends in DC," Kaplan wrote in a note to his group, according to the Times. 

"I believe in standing by your friends, especially when times are tough for them," Kaplan wrote in a subsequent internal message. He also apologized for his appearance at the hearing, according to the Times.

Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg emphasized that Facebook must be a place that tolerates and supports diverse political and social views, the person familiar with the matter said. They also condemned sexual assault.

Kaplan said at the town hall that he values loyalty and friendship, the source said. 

The employee outrage comes at a tumultuous time for the social media giant, which is still dealing with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, concerns that it censors conservative voices, and its largest security breach, which was announced last week.

Zuckerberg and Sandberg addressed Kaplan's appearance last week, according to Times.

"Our leadership team recognizes that they've made mistakes handling the events of the last week and we're grateful for all the feedback from our employees," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "Sexual assault is an issue society has turned a blind eye to for far too long, compounding every victim's pain."

First published Oct. 4, 4:13 p.m. PT.
Update, Oct. 5, 2:36 p.m.: To include the results of the town hall meeting.

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