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A former Facebook exec said he regrets not defending ousted Oculus cofounder Palmer Luckey from a 'witch hunt.' Drama ensued.

Jordan Hart   

A former Facebook exec said he regrets not defending ousted Oculus cofounder Palmer Luckey from a 'witch hunt.' Drama ensued.
  • A key former Facebook exec has reignited discussion of Oculus founder Palmer Luckey's 2016 firing.
  • Former Oculus CTO and ex-Meta VR exec John Carmack said on X that he regrets not defending Luckey.

John Carmack, a key player in Meta's venture into virtual reality, is coming to the defense of Oculus founder Palmer Luckey — about eight years after the tech giant fired him amid scrutiny surrounding Luckey's political donations in 2016.

And Carmack's comments then sparked some seemingly defensive responses from Facebook owner Meta's current CTO and then from Luckey himself.

In a series of X posts on Saturday, Carmack expressed his regret about "not doing more to support and defend" Luckey, who was ousted from Facebook in 2016 after the company received backlash over his donations to an anti-Hillary Clinton political group.

"We were in different states and divisions, and I was largely out of the political loop, but when I became aware of the situation I should have made a clear and open statement of opposition to the witch hunt," Carmack wrote.

According to Carmack, things could've gone differently if Luckey had a "unified front of Oculus founders behind him." Carmack and Luckey joined Facebook after it acquired Oculus, the VR company founded by Luckey in 2012, for $2 billion in 2014.

Although he conceded that he couldn't confirm that the firing had anything to do with Luckey's political ties, Carmack cited "hysterical internal employee pressure" as the reason he believed it happened, and said that "politics were openly present" at Facebook.

Luckey's ouster happened in 2016, the year of the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump presidential election. He had hit headlines for donating $10,000 to an anti-Clinton political group, stoking anger among some members of the tech community during the heated election.

Upon his exit, Luckey negotiated a payout of at least $100 million from the company, according to The Wall Street Journal. He and his lawyer reportedly argued that Meta violated a California law by firing Luckey. Since then, he's gone on to work on defense startup Anduril, which he founded in 2017.

The comments from Carmack — who left his position at Meta in 2022 and who has been openly critical of its VR efforts — then caught the attention of current Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth, who first joined the company during its early days nearly 20 years ago.

"The culture has changed a lot since you left (internal discussions have to be work focused)," Bosworth replied on X. He went on to say that he had "absolutely no idea" about Palmer's politics now or then but "defended him publicly inside the company when people were agitating around them."

But that appeared to draw the attention — and ire — of Luckey himself.

"Great story to tell now that I have dragged myself back to relevance, but you aren't credible," he replied to Bosworth.

"You publicly told everyone my departure had nothing to do with politics, which is absolutely insane and obviously contradicted by reams of internal communications. It is like saying the sky is green."

"Don't try to play the apolitical hero here," Luckey said to Bosworth.

"Not claiming to be apolitical," Bosworth replied. "I certainly have my own politics probably different than yours, but internally at the time I certainly was clear I thought no employment consequences should come from someone's political beliefs." Meta previously told WSJ that Palmer's departure was "unequivocally" not due to his political views.

But Luckey, who Forbes has declared a billionaire, wasn't soothed by that.

"I am down to throw it all out there. We can make everything public and let people judge for themselves. Just say the word," he replied on X.

"I'm not the one with anything to lose so I don't think that's my call to make," responded Bosworth.

Watch this space.

Business Insider reached out to representatives of Bosworth, Carmack, and Luckey but didn't receive an immediate response.

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