Facebook’s board is putting its full support behind chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, writing in a letter first reported by the Wall Street Journal Wednesday that her call to research billionaire Facebook-critic George Soros “was entirely appropriate given her role as COO.”
The social media company came under fire last month after a searing New York Times investigation reported that it knew of Russia’s 2016 election meddling (which Facebook denies) and that it hired a public relations firm that attacked Soros, stoking anti-Semitic sentiment.
Sandberg, who is also Jewish, terminated Facebook’s relationship with the Definers, claiming that she didn’t know about the PR firms efforts. She further emphasized in a memo “that it was never anyone’s intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative against Mr. Soros or anyone else… The idea that our work has been interpreted as anti-Semitic is abhorrent to me — and deeply personal.”
Facebook did confirm, however, that Sandberg asked subordinates to research whether Soros was shorting the company’s stock after he publicly accused the tech giant of being “monopolistic” in January.
However, Patrick Gaspard, the president of Soros’ Open Society Foundation, publicly disagreed with this narrative. He published a letter on Twitter Tuesday alleging that Sandberg “did not speak in good faith” about her ignorance of Definer’s tactics.
The next day, Facebook’s board sent its letter backing Sandberg to Gaspard, emphasizing that since Soros had openly called Facebook a “menace to society,” it made sense that staff would try to determine the “motivations deriving the criticism, financial or otherwise.”
Buzzfeed reports that Sandberg tried to talk to Soros about the Definers report, but that her phone message went unanswered. A source told Buzzfeed that Soros hadn’t called back due to travel.
“When Ms. Sandberg contacted you on November 15, she told you, truthfully, that she had not known about the work done by the Definers public relations firm related to Mr. Soros,” the board wrote in a letter that can be read in full on CNET. “Ms. Sandberg has also made clear that she takes full responsibility for any work done on her watch, and she and Mr. Zuckerberg have ordered a full review of the company’s work with communications consultants.
Facebook and Soros’ Open Society Foundation did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.