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Facebook reportedly fired Palmer Luckey for political views

The Oculus founder left the company last year after it was learned he secretly made a $10,000 donation to an anti-Hillary Clinton group.

Web Summit 2018 In Lisbon
Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, earlier this month.
Horacio Villalobos - Corbis

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey helped rekindle the world's interest in virtual reality, but his abrupt departure from Facebook last year sparked rumors the social network's brass was unhappy with his political view points.

About six months after Luckey secretly made a $10,000 to an anti-Hillary Clinton group during the 2016 presidential election, he was out of the company he founded. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, during congressional testimony earlier this year, called Luckey's departure a "personnel issue" that would be "inappropriate" to address, but he denied it was because of Luckey's politics.

But that appears to be at the root of Luckey's departure, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. Luckey was placed on leave and then fired for supporting Donald Trump, sources told the newspaper.

Amid corporate displeasure with Luckey's donation, he was pressured by executives to publicly voice support for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, according to the Journal. Luckey later hired an employment lawyer who argued that Facebook illegally punished an employee for political activity and negotiated a payout for Luckey of at least $100 million, the newspaper reported.

"All details associated with specific personnel matters are kept strictly confidential. This is our policy for all employees, no matter their seniority," a Facebook spokesperson said. "But we can say unequivocally that Palmer's departure was not due to his political views. We always made it clear that any mention of politics was up to Palmer and we did not pressure him to say something that wasn't factual or true."

The revelation comes amid suspicion among some conservatives toward Silicon Valley, who accuse companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter of liberal bias and suppression of conservative voices. In August, President Trump accused Google of doctoring its search results for "Trump News" to show only negative coverage about him -- a charge Google denied.

Facebook has drawn flak before for the perception it reflects a liberal bias. During the congressional hearings in April, Zuckerberg faced questions about whether the social network was curbing conservative points of view, especially as personified by the media personalities Diamond and Silk.

In October, a senior Facebook engineer left the company after penning a controversial memo criticizing the company's workplace culture as a "political monoculture that's intolerant of different views." In a message to coworkers, Brian Amerige didn't specify why he was leaving but did say it wasn't because "it's time for something new."

Luckey couldn't immediately be reached for comment but told the Journal that he "believe[s] the team that remains at Oculus is still the best in the VR industry, and I am rooting for them to succeed."

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