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Facebook has a big Kavanaugh problem — and it won’t go away

One Facebook staffer wrote that it was “a slap in the face to his fellow employees.”

by David Gilbert
Oct 5 2018, 11:47am

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Amid Facebook’s mounting problems, CEO Mark Zuckerberg will confront hundreds of irate employees Friday to explain why a company executive lent his support to Brett Kavanaugh at the Senate Judiciary hearings last week.

Joel Kaplan, vice president for global public policy, was seated alongside his wife and Kavanaugh’s own family at Thursday’s emotional hearing, attending to show support for his friend of more than two decades.

But for Facebook staff in Menlo Park, Kaplan’s presence was an outrage.

According to reports by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the company’s internal message board lit up with missives from employees who took Kaplan’s appearance to be an endorsement for Kavanaugh from Facebook itself.

One employee wrote that it was “a slap in the face to his fellow employees.”

Facebook’s leadership quickly sought to fix the problem.

Kaplan apologized, but without backing down on his support of Kavanaugh. “I want to apologize,” the Facebook executive wrote last Friday in a note to staff. “I recognize this moment is a deeply painful one — internally and externally.”

Family members, friends and supporters of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, including his mother Martha (L), Facebook's Vice President of Public Policy Joel Kaplan (3rd from L), friend Laura Cox Kaplan (C) and his wife Ashley (R) listen to him testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 27, 2018. (REUTERS/Jim Bourg)

Zuckerberg addressed the controversy at a weekly Q-and-A session, saying Kaplan had not broken any company rules and he trusted his executive’s judgment — but added that he would not have made the same decision.

READ: Facebook’s latest data breach could cost it $1.63 billion. Here’s what you need to know.

That failed to quell the anger with many employees suggesting the CEO was trying to shrug off Kaplan’s support of a man accused of sexual misconduct while at school and in college. Dozens of women also posted accounts of their own struggles with sexual assault.

“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 spokeswoman said.

Zuckerberg, along with Kaplan and COO Sheryl Sandberg, will try again Friday at a town hall meeting at the company’s headquarters.

The timing of the Kavanaugh problem comes soon after Facebook revealed it had suffered its largest ever security breach, and the two founders of Instagram departed on less-than-friendly terms. Concerns have also been voiced about the platform and Russian interference in the midterm elections.

Cover image: Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg, flanked by Facebook's vice president of global public policy Joel Kaplan, leaves the Elysee presidential palace, in Paris, on May 23, 2018 following a meeting with French President on the day of the 'Tech for Good' summit. (ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)