Parler’s former boss John Matze has spoken about the internal clash with investor Rebekah Mercer that led to his termination last month.
The ex-CEO, who was fired via an email on January 29, told Axios he felt “betrayed” by Mercer, a political donor who helped to fund the social network around the time of its launch in 2018 before maintaining the title of controlling shareholder.
Matze said: “I thought I knew her… I thought that she was, generally speaking, I thought she was being real. And then she just abruptly has her people fire me and doesn’t even talk to me about it. I feel like it was a stab in the back by somebody that I thought I knew. And so for me, you know, I would never do business with her again.”
Rebekah Mercer is the daughter of Robert Mercer, a hedge fund manager and a former principal investor in Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting company that was at the center of a major Facebook data breach controversy in March 2018.
Revealing her involvement, Mercer said in a Parler post last November that the website was founded alongside Matze to “provide a neutral platform for free speech.” It is still unclear how much money Mercer had originally invested into the platform.
In response to Mercer’s post at the time, Matze said Mercer was a “great friend” and an “American patriot” who had been “committed to the Parler vision.”
Parler has been offline since January, when its hosting was suspended by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its app was removed from the Google and Apple mobile stores in a dispute over user content moderation, especially following the U.S. Capitol riot.
Matze told Axios he had sought greater user moderation in order to comply with the app store and AWS demands, a move that could have potentially restored the site.
Matze said he received push-back from others in the company—a claim that roughly aligned with statements made by another investor, Dan Bongino, who criticized Matze in a Facebook video this month for publicly disclosing his firing to the U.S. media.
“After Apple, Amazon and Google wiped us out we could have been up in a week if we just would have bent the knee, and followed all the ridiculous Apple edicts to become a heavy moderation site… that’s not what we are going to do,” Bongino said.
Trump’s campaign had held discussions with Parler about Trump joining the platform in exchange for 40 percent of the company, BuzzFeed News reported on February 5.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chair of the House Oversight Committee, has demanded Parler release documents about its funding and ownership by February 22.
Maloney said in a letter to Parler chief operating officer Jeffrey Wernick on Monday that users of the social network called for violence and civil war prior to the January 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol Building, which was led by a mob of Trump supporters.
She wrote: “Numerous Parler users have been arrested and charged for their roles, with the Department of Justice citing in several instances the threats that individuals made through Parler in the days leading up to and following the attack.”
“Individuals with ties to the January 6 assault should not—and must not—be allowed to hide behind the veil of anonymity provided by shell companies,” Maloney added.