Some employees at Facebook have been furious that one of their top lobbyists, vice president for global public policy and former George W. Bush administration official Joel Kaplan, publicly supported Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings even as the latter faced multiple allegations of sexual assault. This probably won’t help: Over the weekend, Kaplan hosted a little shindig to congratulate the guy for landing on the court.
On Saturday night, Kaplan was the host of a party at his house for individuals who worked on Kavanaugh’s nomination, as first flagged by Politico’s interminable Playbook newsletter. Kavanaugh himself stopped by:
— FACEBOOK’S JOEL KAPLAN and his wife LAURA COX KAPLAN hosted a Kavanaugh celebration at their house last night for people who had worked on his nomination. Brett and Ashley Kavanaugh stopped by the gathering of about 25 people that was organised by Laura, Ginger Loper and several other Kavanaugh female supporters.
No word on whether Kavanaugh knocked back a beer or four while there.
The legitimate grievances brought by Facebook staff included complaints on internal message boards that Kaplan’s attendance at the hearings disrespected survivors of sexual violence. Executives including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg responded during a town hall-style meeting last week that while they disagreed with Kaplan’s actions, the VP said his support was personal in nature and that the company does not place any prohibitions on actions outside of work.
Many of the angry staff hadn’t bought this line of reasoning, the New York Times wrote:
“Let’s assume for a minute that our VP of Policy understands how senate hearings work,” one program manager said in a post about Mr. Kaplan that was reviewed by The Times. “His seat choice was intentional, knowing full well that journalists would identify every public figure appearing behind Kavanaugh. He knew that this would cause outrage internally, but he knew that he couldn’t get fired for it. This was a protest against our culture, and a slap in the face to his fellow employees.”
“Yes, Joel, we see you,” the employee added.
… “I appreciate your desire to avoid taking sides, but please don’t insult our intelligence by declaring that this act did not violate our policies, or that it was only an honest lapse in judgement,” one engineer wrote in a post addressed to the chief executive.
“Kaplan didn’t break any rules and is entitled to his political opinion, but the presence of a senior executive and Facebook’s top government liaison in Washington by the side of Kavanaugh is guaranteed to reflect on the company’s political position as a whole,” Altimeter Group analyst Omar Akhtar told Yahoo Finance. “…You’d think Facebook PR would be extra sensitive to any optics that imply partisanship, and Facebook’s employees are rightly entitled to object to the actions of one person implying the opinions of a whole group.”
Facebook characterised Kaplan’s support at the hearings as a mistake, writing in a statement to media outlets that “Sexual assault is an issue society has turned a blind eye to for far too long—compounding every victim’s pain. Our leadership team recognises that they’ve made mistakes handling the events of the last week and we’re grateful for all the feedback from our employees.” It would appear that feedback was indeed filed, though somewhere short of Kaplan’s event planner.