During his Senate hearing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked about an infamous ex-employee: Palmer Luckey

Former Facebook employee and Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey demonstrating the Oculus Touch peripherals to the press.

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Former Facebook employee and Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey demonstrating the Oculus Touch peripherals to the press.
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Business Insider

  • During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about hiring and firing decisions based on political affiliation.
  • Among the questions, Cruz asked Zuckerberg about the case of Palmer Luckey – the Oculus VR co-founder and Oculus Rift creator who no longer works at Facebook.
  • Luckey was outed as having funded an anti-Hillary Clinton meme group, and he left Facebook with little explanation about six months later.
  • Zuckerberg didn’t comment on specifics of Luckey’s firing, but did say that it wasn’t due “to a political view.”

Who is Palmer Luckey? And why is his name coming up during a Senate hearing with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over privacy concerns in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal?

In case you’ve already forgotten, Luckey is the charismatic entrepreneur who once graced the cover of Time Magazine – the poster boy for the future of virtual reality, made real by his invention: The “Oculus Rift.” Facebook liked the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset so much that it bought the company that Luckey co-founded, Oculus VR, in 2014 for $2 billion.

Luckey was in his early-20s at the time.

The far flung past of summer 2015.

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The far flung past of summer 2015.
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Time Magazine

Facebook still owns Oculus VR, and is working on new versions of the Oculus Rift headset. Luckey, however, was ushered out of Facebook in March 2017 – at the time, Facebook didn’t say whether he was fired or if he quit.

What was clear, however, was that he left Facebook about six months after news surfaced of his bankrolling of a bizarre, meme-focused anti-Hillary Clinton group (The Daily Beast has the original report, which goes into much more detail).

So why’s his name coming up over a year after his firing, from Senator Ted Cruz of all people?

Because Cruz seemingly believes that Luckey’s firing was politically motivated. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Luckey hosted a fundraiser for Senator Cruz last April.

Senator Ted Cruz and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (April 10, 2018)

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PBS Newshour/YouTube

Here’s the full exchange:

SENATOR CRUZ: “In your testimony, you say that you have 15 to 20 thousand people working on security and content review. Do you know the political orientation of those 15 to 20 thousand people engaged in content review?

FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: “We do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they’re joining the company.”

CRUZ: “Have you ever made hiring/firing decisions based on political positions and what candidates they support?”

ZUCKERBERG: “No.”

CRUZ: “Why was Palmer Luckey fired?”

ZUCKERBERG: “That is a specific personnel matter that seems like it would be inappropriate to speak to here.”

CRUZ: “You just made a specific representation that you didn’t make decisions based on political views.”

ZUCKERBERG: “Well I can commit that it wasn’t because of a political view.”

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