Parler Fires CEO John Matze After Right-Wing Website Is Booted From Major Platforms
The board of directors fired John Matze just weeks after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, which insurrectionists partially planned using the Parler app.
The board of directors for the popular far-right social networking site Parler has fired its CEO John Matze. The firing comes after Parler was taken offline and banned from several app hosting services following the attack on the U.S. Capitol, after evidence emerged that insurrectionists were using the app to contact each other and organize.
The news was first reported on Wednesday by Fox Business, which obtained a copy of the letter Matze sent to Parler employees informing them that he had been terminated.
“On January 29, 2021, the Parler board controlled by Rebekah Mercer decided to immediately terminate my position as CEO of Parler. I did not participate in this decision,” Matze wrote in the letter. “Over the past few months, I’ve met constant resistance to my product vision, my strong belief in free speech and my view of how the Parler site should be managed. For example, I advocated for more product stability and what I believe is a more effective approach to content moderation.”
Mercer is the daughter of hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer; both were a major donors to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and introduced Trump to Steve Bannon. The Mercer family has also reportedly donated to other controversial conservative politicians including Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and has been criticized for financing the modern “fascist movement.”
One of Parler’s part-owners, Dan Bongino, a conservative political commentator and host, confirmed the news in a Facebook video on Wednesday night saying that the board was “handling it like gentlemen,” but Matze made the news public.
“I have no personal gripes against John, the CEO, I want to be crystal clear, but John decided to make this public. Not us,” Bongino said.
Parler went dark last month after Amazon Web Services booted the social networking site off of its platform. Around the same time, Apple and Google both banned Parler from its app stores. In an email obtained by BuzzFeed News, Amazon wrote to Parler that the website was being kicked off because of the “steady increase in this violent content.”
The website became a haven for right-wing extremists and QAnon conspiracy theorists after other social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook began regulating that type of content. Ardent supporters of former President Donald Trump congregated on the website and screenshots from when Parler was live showed users plotting violence — including at the January 6 attack on the Capitol and for the January 20 inauguration.
“We were the ones, in fact, fighting to get Parler back up,” Borgino continued. “This isn’t us airing dirty laundry. This is protecting a company that is absolutely committed to free speech.”
Bongino also claimed that Matze’s assertion that he was a major advocate for free speech was “not true” and that “the CEO’s vision was not ours.” Borgino also said the co-owners’ vision was to be “immune and hardened from cancel culture” and that his team was working “nonstop” to get the website back up.
Parler has not publicly commented on Matze’s firing and has not responded to multiple outlets’ requests for comment.