Here’s a transcript of the exchange:
Ted Cruz: “As CEO, have you ever made hiring or firing decisions based on political positions or what candidates [employees] supported?”
Mark 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. Is that accurate?”
Zuckerberg: “I can commit that it was not because of a political view.”
Who is Palmer Luckey?
Luckey, 25, was the founder of Oculus VR, a virtual reality company best known for its Oculus Rift headsets. Luckey became a Facebook employee in 2014 when Facebook acquired Oculus VR in a $3 billion deal.
However, Luckey and Facebook parted ways last year after it was revealed that he was quietly funding efforts attacking Hillary Clinton and supporting Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Luckey was also reportedly posting anti-Clinton messages on the social media site Reddit under a pseudonym.
Neither Luckey nor Facebook publicly gave a reason for Luckey’s departure. Facebook has continued to develop Oculus VR’s technology as part of its virtual reality initiatives.
Cruz, a staunch conservative, brought up Palmer Luckey while questioning Zuckerberg about Facebook’s political views. Facebook considers itself politically neutral and works with politicians on both sides of the aisle.
But the company has been criticized by conservatives for a perceived bias, particularly after it appeared to be suppressing right-leaning news outlets from its “Trending” section. That was among several political controversies that has engulfed Facebook over the past few months and years, including Russian electoral interference and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the latter of which landed Zuckerberg in the hot seat this week.