Facebook Exec's Appearance at Kavanaugh Hearing Sparks Unrest (Report)

Joel Kaplan_Kavanaugh Hearing - Getty - H 2018
Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images

Facebook vp global public policy Joel Kaplan was seen sitting behind Judge Brett Kavanaugh during the Senate hearing last week.

When Judge Brett Kavanaugh appeared before members of the Senate on Sept. 27 to respond to a sexual assault allegation, the tech savvy noticed a familiar face sitting behind him.

Joel Kaplan, Facebook vp global public policy, was seated a couple rows back in apparent support of the Supreme Court nominee. Press reports later linked Kavanaugh and Kaplan as friends from their days working for President George W. Bush, and a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to CNBC that Kaplan had attended the hearing in a "personal capacity" as a friend of Kavanaugh's.

But many Facebook employees are not happy about Kaplan's public show of support. The New York Times reports that Facebook's internal message boards have been bombarded with complaints from current and former employees, many of whom are not satisfied with CEO Mark Zuckerberg's response last Friday during a staff meeting that Kaplan had not broken any rules. The Wall Street Journal has also reported that hundreds of employees have shown dissatisfaction over the incident.

Both outlets say that Facebook plans to hold a staff meeting with senior executives on Friday to address the issue. The Times reports that Kaplan has also issued an apology to Facebook staff, quoting him as saying that he recognizes "this moment is a deeply painful one — internally and externally."

A Facebook spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter, "Sexual assault is an issue society has turned a blind eye to for far too long — compounding every victim's pain. Our leadership team recognizes that they've made mistakes handling the events of the last week and we're grateful for all the feedback from our employees."

The hearing, which included emotional testimony from Kavanaugh's accuser, California professor Christine Blasey Ford, has become a hot-button topic, and comes at an especially pivotal moment for Facebook as it grapples with claims by conservatives that it has an anti-right agenda. The company has denied that its algorithms favor one side and, during its recent push to fund video news programming, selected partners that spanned political viewpoints.