Oculus parent company Facebook denied renewed claims that Rift inventor Palmer Luckey was fired for his political views.
In September 2016 a story emerged in which the 26-year-old apparently claimed to have donated $10,000 to a political smear campaign against the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, and supporting the now-president Donald Trump. In a Facebook post following the story Luckey apologized for the impact of his actions but stated that he would be voting for Gary Johnson in the election. Then, in March of 2017, Facebook announced Luckey had parted ways with the company. Last month, he told CNBC that it was not his decision to leave.
A Wall Street Journal report that surfaced online this week suggests that it was, in fact, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that drafted Luckey’s response, and that the Rift inventor was pressured into saying he voted for Johnson. The report cites an apparent email from Facebook Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal written to a lawyer working for Luckey that reads: “I need to tell you that Mark [Zuckerberg] himself drafted this and details are critical.”
The report goes on to claim that Luckey was then put on a paid leave of absence from his role at Oculus and was later fired instead of being reinstated as hoped.
However, official Facebook responses in the article deny firing Luckey for his support of Trump. VP of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth supported these statements in a thread on Twitter stating: “We always made it clear that any mention of politics was up to Palmer. We did not pressure him to say something untrue. Leaked information is inherently one-sided and rarely paints the full picture of what’s going on as it comes from someone with an agenda.”
Luckey now runs a military tech company named Anduril, though still regularly contributes his thoughts on the VR industry online. Earlier this month he wrote a lengthy blog post explaining why he doesn’t think current or upcoming headsets are good enough to go truly mainstream.