What is Facebook's relationship status with former executive Palmer Luckey? It's complicated.
The founder of virtual reality company Oculus, Luckey left Facebook in March of 2017. While it was unclear at the time whether he had been dismissed or left on his own, Facebook now admits it terminated Luckey, the Wall Street Journal reports. Luckey
recently told people his dismissal was related to his support of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Six months before leaving Facebook, Luckey apologized in a Facebook post for donating $10,000 to NimbleAmerica, an anti-Hillary Clinton group that had reportedly spread white-supremacist messages. Emails reveal the apology came after Facebook's leadership, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pressured Luckey to publicly back Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, the WSJ reports.
A Facebook spokeswoman denied Luckey's politics had anything to do with his dismissal. "We can say unequivocally that Palmer's departure was not due to his political views," the spokeswoman wrote in an emailed statement to the WSJ. "We're grateful for Palmer's contributions to Oculus, and we're glad he continues to actively support the VR industry."
Some Facebook employees say it's inaccurate to assert that Luckey's job was cut for his political opinions and claim it was his diminished role at Oculus and a "lack of candor during the episode involving the donation" that led to the decision, the WSJ reports. The 26-year-old entrepreneur hired an employment lawyer to negotiate the terms of his departure from Facebook. After the lawyer argued the company had violated California law by pressuring Luckey to voice his support for Johnson, Facebook agreed to a payout of at least $100 million, according to the report.
Facebook is not the only company to dismiss an employee following a public controversy involving politics. In 2017, a private company contracted by the U.S. government terminated an employee after her picture giving the middle finger to President Trump's motorcade went viral.