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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg went on CNN Tuesday to defend Facebook against allegations that he and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg bungled a cascade of scandals over the past year.

The bottom line: Zuckerberg stood by Sandberg and maintained his position that he won’t step down as the CEO of Facebook, less than a week after a major New York Times investigation painted an unflattering picture of the pair.

What he's saying:
  • Zuckerberg said that Facebook's decision to allow content that several critics deemed as hate speech from President Trump was not made to avoid angering conservatives. He said that factor was “certainly not any part of the conversation that I had.” (The Times reported that Zuckerberg was not part of a key conversation around the issue.)
  • He reiterated that he had learned of the hiring of a right-leaning communications firm, Definers Public Affairs, from last week's Times story. And while Zuckerberg has expressed frustration at the firm for attempting to link critics of the company to billionaire philanthropist George Soros, he said that nothing Definers said “was untrue as far as we can tell.”
  • Zuckerberg said that there is no plan for him to step down as chairman of the company: “I’m not going to be doing this forever, but I certainly, I’m not currently thinking that that makes sense.”
  • Asked about Sandberg’s future with the company, Zuckerberg said she would stay in her role. “Look, Sheryl is a really important part of this company and is leading a lot of the efforts to address a lot of the biggest efforts that — the biggest issues that we have,” he said. “And I hope that we work together for decades more to come.”

Later on Tuesday night, TechCrunch published a memo from Elliot Schrage, the company’s former head of policy and communications. “I knew and approved of the decision to hire Definers and similar firms,” he said. “I should have known of the decision to expand their mandate.”

  • Sandberg reportedly said in response to the memo that some of Definers’ work "was incorporated into materials presented to me and I received a small number of emails where Definers was referenced.” She said that when she read about the firm last week in the initial report on their work, she "didn't remember" it.
  • She’d previously tried to put more distance between herself and the firm. “I did not know about or hire Definers or any firm,” she said on CBS last week.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
21 mins ago - World

China's Xi Jinping congratulates Biden on election win

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to President-elect Biden on Wednesday to congratulate him on his election victory, according to the Xinhua state news agency.

Why it matters: China's foreign ministry offered Biden a belated, and tentative, congratulations on Nov. 13, but Xi had not personally acknowledged Biden's win. The leaders of Brazil, Mexico and Russia are among the very few leaders still declining to congratulate Biden.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
1 hour ago - Sports

College basketball is back

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new season of college basketball begins Wednesday, and the goal is clear: March Madness must be played.

Why it matters: On March 12, 2020, the lights went out on college basketball, depriving teams like Baylor (who won our tournament simulation), Dayton, San Diego State and Florida State of perhaps their best chance to win a national championship.

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Israeli military prepares for possibility Trump will strike Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting. Photo: Abir Sultan/POOL/AFP via Getty

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government instructed the IDF to undertake the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.