(JTA) — Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged that she was aware of the company’s work with a Republican-led opposition-research company, and said that Facebook did not intend to foment anti-Semitism.
“I want to be clear that I oversee our Comms team and take full responsibility for their work and the PR firms who work with us,” Sandberg said in a statement on the Facebook website Wednesday evening.
She said that when The New York Times broke the story last week about the company’s work with Definers Public Affairs, she did not remember the firm. Sandberg said she has since explored the issue and realized that “some of their work was incorporated into materials presented to me and I received a small number of emails where Definers was referenced.”
The firm was hired 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 set out to discredit activist protesters in part by linking them to George Soros, the Jewish billionaire who supports liberal causes.
Critics said singling out Soros fed into a far-right and sometimes anti-Semitic narrative about the liberal philanthropist.
“I also want to emphasize that it was never anyone’s intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative against Mr. Soros or anyone else,” Sandberg said in her statement. “Being Jewish is a core part of who I am and our company stands firmly against hate. The idea that our work has been interpreted as anti-Semitic is abhorrent to me — and deeply personal.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an interview Tuesday with CNN Business threw his support behind Sandberg, who has been criticized for her role in handling Facebook’s recent crises. He also said he “wasn’t particularly happy” about his company’s involvement in bringing about the attacks on Soros.