Facebook risks employee unrest with its sponsorship of an event featuring Brett Kavanaugh as a speaker

Brett Kavanaugh drinkingSupreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh was repeatedly asked about his drinking habits during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday.Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

  • Facebook is sponsoring an event at which US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is speaking.
  • Facebook employees previously protested after a senior executive supported Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearings, and the sponsorship risks inflaming internal tensions.
  • Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct, which he denies.
  • Activists are now targeting Facebook employees with ads about the sponsorship to try and get them to challenge it.
  • Facebook says the sponsorship is part of its long-running support for political groups on both sides of the aisle.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Facebook is sponsoring an event at which US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is speaking - a move that risks employee unrest, and that has sparked immediate protests from activist groups.

On Thursday, political newsletter Popular Information reported that Facebook will be a "gold sponsor" for an upcoming convention by conservative law group The Federalist Society, at which Kavanaugh will appear as the keynote speaker on Thursday.

After being nominated by President Trump, Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court in October 2018 following a bitter political battle and multiple allegations of sexual misconduct were made against him, which he denied. The fight inflamed Facebook's largely-liberal employee base after Joel Kaplan, Facebook's VP of global public policy, appeared in the audience at the hearing in support of Kavanaugh. Kaplan previously worked at the White House under the George W. Bush administration, and he and Kavanaugh are personal friends.

Some employees were outraged, calling his appearance "inappropriate."

"I might feel uncomfortable sharing the workplace with this person now," one employee wrote in a message seen by Business Insider at the time. In response, Facebook held a "town hall" meeting with to try and calm tensions, attended by Kaplan as well as CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Facebook says that the sponsorship of the Federalist Society event is part of its long-running financial support for groups from across the political spectrum, and that it has supported the organisation since 2013.

But the headlines around the sponsorship could nonetheless reopen rifts at the company - and activists are actively trying to encourage that.

Activists are targeting Facebook employees with ads

Left-wing group Demand Justice is targeting Facebook employees with ads on LinkedIn alerting them to their employer's support of the Kavanaugh event in an attempt to forment unrest over the issue. "The Federalist Society is Honoring Him. Why is Facebook Paying for it?", the ad reads, along with pictures of Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused the judge of sexual misconduct.

Demand Justice will also run ads on other platforms targeting people who visit Facebook's headquarters, the organization's communications director Colin Diersing said in an email.

In a statement, Demand Justice senior counsel Katie O'Connor said:

"Facebook should not be sponsoring the rehabbing of Brett Kavanaugh's reputation when Dr. Blasey Ford remains unable to resume a normal life after bravely coming forward last year. You can claim to respect survivors of sexual assault or you can pay for a celebration of Brett Kavanaugh, but you can't do both. Any organization that doesn't want to be complicit in normalizing Kavanaugh should withdraw its support from The Federalist Society and pledge not to give in the future."

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement: "This reporting purposely focuses on Facebook's support for one organization to distract from our lengthy track record of supporting groups from across the political spectrum." Kaplan will not attend the dinner, they added.

Do you work at Facebook? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at rprice@businessinsider.com, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.)

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