(JTA) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a wide-ranging interview that he does not approve of the way a public relations firm hired by the company went after George Soros, the Jewish billionaire who supports liberal causes.
Zuckerberg also told CNN Business on Tuesday that he is not planning on stepping down as head of the social media company he founded anytime soon.
A New York Times investigation last week said that the social media network hired a Republican-led opposition-research company to push back against critics who denounced Facebook for the leak of users’ personal information to a political data firm linked to then-candidate Donald Trump. The firm, Definers Public Affairs, set out to discredit activist protesters in part by linking them to Soros.
Zuckerberg told Laurie Segall that he was displeased by the attack on Soros by the PR firm.
“I wasn’t particularly happy about that piece of it, and that is certainly a big part of what — when I read about it — made me want to look into this deeply,” he said. “The intention was never to attack an individual, but there are these lobbying groups and folks out there whose primary focus is to attack the company. And I do think it’s fine to push back on that.”
Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, said of the PR firm’s strategy: “I don’t think that this is the type of thing that our company should be engaging with.”
Asked what his message would be to Soros, he said: “Well, I know that George Soros has been the target of a lot of really horrendous attacks, and I think that is terrible. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone who’s associated with our company to be part of that.”
Zuckerberg also offered his support for his chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, who has been criticized for her role in handling Facebook’s recent crises. Sandberg, like Zuckerberg, is Jewish.
Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook is facing some “big issues,” but complained about media coverage that he said is only showing the bad things and not the “bigger picture.”
Soros has been widely criticized by conservatives and European nationalists for his support of liberal and pro-democracy causes. At the same time, he has also been cast as a villain in a series of conspiracy theories that many say draw on classic anti-Semitic themes of world domination and secretive manipulation of markets and governments.
In a statement last week, Sandberg said she has “great respect for George Soros – and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against him are abhorrent.”