Former Facebook top executive Palmer Luckey may have been ousted from the social media company over his support for Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Luckey, who co-founded the virtual reality company Oculus, has told people that he was fired for supporting Trump before the presidential election.
In September 2016, Luckey made a quiet $10,000 donation to Nimble America, an unofficial Donald Trump group that circulated internet memes that malign Hillary Clinton, but news about his support eventually got out and reportedly drew backlash within Facebook.
Later that month, Luckey made a public post on Facebook, saying that he contributed to the organization thinking it had fresh ideas for communicating with young voters. He also said that he plans to vote Gary Johnson, who was the Libertarian nominee in that election.
“I am a libertarian who has publicly supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson in the past, and I plan on voting for Gary in this election as well,” Luckey said in a Facebook post dated Sept. 24, 2016.
“I don’t have any plans to donate beyond what I have already given to Nimble America.”
Six months later, Luckey was no longer at Facebook.
Luckey was reportedly placed on leave before he was fired with an exit package worth at least $100 million.
Citing emails it obtained and sources familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal said that Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pressured Luckey to publicly voice support for Johnson after word of his donation got out.
Luckey is a long time supporter of Trump but a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to the Journal that Luckey’s departure was not because of his political views.
The greater issues were reportedly Luckey’s lack of transparency and his reduced role in the day-to-day business of Oculus, which he sold to Facebook in 2014 for more than $2 billion.
“We can say unequivocally that Palmer’s departure was not due to his political views. We’re grateful for Palmer’s contributions to Oculus, and we’re glad he continues to actively support the VR industry,” the spokeswoman said.
The report noted that when Zuckerberg testified in front of the Congress earlier this year, he said that Luckey’s departure had nothing to do with his political views.
Luckey reportedly hired an employment lawyer who argued that the social media giant violated California law by urging him to support Johnson and punishing him because of his political views.