Oct 4, 2018 - Technology

Facebook exec's Kavanaugh appearance riles firm's staff

Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifying before Senate Judiciary Committee

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Facebook policy executive Joel Kaplan's attendance at Brett Kavanaugh's testimony last week sparked a firestorm inside the company, Mike Isaac reports in the New York Times.

Our thought bubble: The reaction is another example of the kind of turmoil Silicon Valley companies face when leaders make choices that clash with values held by many in their workforce.

Kaplan and Kavanaugh are close friends, having served in the George W. Bush administration together. Kaplan's wife, Laura Cox Kaplan, has also been a vocal supporter of the Supreme Court nominee since allegations emerged that he committed sexual misconduct in high school and college.

  • Kaplan, who is Facebook's vice president of global public policy, has reportedly apologized for his appearance at the hearing. The company has said he was there on personal time.

Now, Facebook employees are putting pressure on the company's leadership over Kaplan's decision.

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees he wouldn't have attended, if he had been in Kaplan's shoes, per the Times and a Wall Street Journal report.
  • Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said that she "talked to Joel about why I think it was a mistake for him to attend given his role in the company," per both papers.

What they're saying:

"Sexual assault is an issue society has turned a blind eye to for far too long — compounding every victim's pain. 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."
— Facebook spokesperson

The bottom line: "Even at Facebook, people seem more riled up about the Kavanaugh hearings than the giant Facebook hack," noted Wired editor Nicholas Thompson on Twitter.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the correct author's byline.

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