Updated Oct 5, 2018

Facebook's Joel Kaplan faces Kavanaugh critics at emotional town hall

Facebook VP Joel Kaplan and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Aurelien Morissard/IP3/Getty Images

Top Facebook executive Joel Kaplan made an emotional appearance at a companywide town hall Friday, and admitted that he should have consulted his superiors before attending last week's Brett Kavanaugh hearing, according to sources.

Why it matters: Facebook is trying to contain internal fallout from employees who were dismayed by Kaplan's appearance at the hearing sitting behind his friend Kavanaugh, who he served with in the administration of George W. Bush.

  • Facebook sources said Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president for global public policy, was solemn and contrite as he said he recognized the difficult situation he had put the company in.
  • Refusing to bow to the attacks, Kaplan explained the tensions between his personal and professional obligations, and said he had a personal obligation to Kavanaugh and his family.
  • Kaplan said he should have talked to Zuckerberg and Sandberg first, according to a Facebook official. Asked whether he had regrets, Kaplan said his core values include friendship and loyalty, and he declined to say if it was a mistake to go.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg also appeared at the town hall, which was livestreamed to all employees, and made it clear they considered Kaplan's appearance a big mistake. A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the record.

  • Zuckerberg said he understood a lot of Facebook employees were upset by the appearance, and expressed frustration that Kaplan had put the company in the middle of a political story, an official said.
  • Zuckerberg added that Facebook is a place where people can have diverse points of view.
  • Sandberg talked about the seriousness of sexual assault, and noted it is a pervasive issue in the country. She also expressed support for employees who did not share colleagues' concerns about Kaplan's attendance at the hearing.
  • Facebook management characterized Kaplan's appearance as a lapse of judgement on his part, according to one listener.
  • Speakers said Kaplan was there in his personal capacity on a personal day.

A Facebook employee who viewed the event characterized the meeting as "intense," and added that people were not expressing hostility but more incredulity at the situation.

This story has been updated to include more information about the meeting.

Go deeper

The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 5,428,605 — Total deaths: 345,375 — Total recoveries — 2,179,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil Over 100 cases in Germany tied to single day of church services.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.