Towards the end of 2016, Palmer Luckey disappeared. The wunderkind co-founder of Oculus and newly minted multimillionaire seemed to vanish off the face of the earth after he was outed by the Daily Beast for having contributed to an anti-Clinton PAC, allying himself with moderators of the notoriously racist pro-Trump forum r/The_Donald, and posting on Reddit under the pseudonym “NimbleRichMan.” The account had described Clinton as “corrupt, a warmonger, a freedom-stripper. Not the good kind you see dancing in bikinis on Independence day.”
A few months after being mothballed, Luckey was quietly fired, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. It has long been assumed that Luckey was either terminated or forced to resign, but both he and Facebook have kept mum on the issue.
It turns out that Luckey’s actions subsequent to his being outed by the Daily Beast were discussed at the highest levels of the company, including by Mark Zuckerberg himself. “I need to tell you that Mark [Zuckerberg] himself drafted this and details are critical,” a lawyer for Facebook wrote to Luckey’s team. In an apology post, Luckey denied writing the Reddit posts and said that he would support libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in the election; he reportedly voted for him, according to the Journal, “only to avoid having his credibility questioned if he was asked about the issue under oath in unrelated litigation.”
After the apology came out, emails between Luckey and the Daily Beast showed him admitting to having written at least one of the Reddit posts, leading Facebook executives to believe that Luckey had lied to them. He was placed on paid leave, and when he returned, his sole focus was preparing for a lawsuit between Facebook and ZeniMax over the rights to the Oculus hardware. Facebook lost the suit (it is appealing the verdict) and Luckey was asked to resign shortly thereafter. He declined and was fired.
Later in the spring, Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress and described Silicon Valley as “extremely left-leaning.” Senator Ted Cruz asked him why Palmer Luckey had been fired and Zuckerberg responded that it was not for his political beliefs. Luckey was not merely a conservative at liberal Facebook, he was also actively tied to one of the most toxic hubs of the pro-Trump online sphere. While his actions did cause internal frustration among employees — he also did things like drive “a giant tan Humvee with machine-gun mounts and orange toy guns” to work — his real misdeed seems to have been having caused a PR headache for the company.