Democrat Congressman Accuses Zuckerberg of Being in the Tank—for Trump

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) suggested that Facebook may be partly to blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election. During a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing about Facebook’s questionable data practices Wednesday, Sarbanes asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg—a dedicated leftist who runs a company that is overwhelmingly filled with leftists—to explain why Trump’s campaign was able to run so many more Facebook ads than Clinton’s.

Sarbanes began by demanding to know whether both campaigns were offered the use of Facebook campaign “embeds.” Zuckerberg said that both campaigns were offered identical services—the use of what he called “support folks.”

“Do you know how many ads were approved for display on Facebook for each of the presidential candidates by Facebook?” Sarbanes asked.

“Congressman I do not, sitting here, off the top of my head,” Zuckerberg replied.

“Let me tell you what they were because I do. Trump’s campaign had an estimated 5.9 million ads approved and Secretary Clinton, 66,000 ads… so that’s about 90 times as much on the Trump campaign,” said Sarbanes. “Which raises some questions about whether the ad approval processees were maybe not processed correctly or improperly bypassed in the final months and weeks of the election by the Trump campaign.”

Sarbanes said he’s worried that the embeds may have helped to facilitate the ad disparities between the two campaigns. “Can you say with absolute certainly Facebook or any of the Facebook employees working as campaign embeds did not grant any special approval rights to the Trump campaign to allow them to upload a very large number of Facebook ads in that final stretch?” he asked.

Zuckerberg replied, “Congressman, we apply the same standard to all campaigns.”

“Can you say that there were not special approval rights granted? Is that what you’re saying,” Sarbanes pressed. “There were not special approval rights granted by any of the embeds or support folks, as you call them, in that Trump campaign?”

“Congressman, yes what I’m saying—” Zuckerberg began.

Sarbanes interrupted: “If you’re saying yes… if you’re saying yes, I’ll take you at your word.”

During the 2016 presidential campaing—and for months afterward—there was a great deal of discussion about the strategies of both the Clinton and the Trump campaigns. It was revealed at the time that both campaigns were offered Facebook embeds to help facilitate their ad buys. Only the Trump campaign took them up on the offer and, as a result, likely received helpful advice from Facebook about how best to use their product—how to get the most bang for the tens of millions of dollars they spent on the platform. That doesn’t mean Facebook was somehow cheating to help the Trump campaign.

Indeed, instead of using the services Facebook was offering, the Clinton campaign opted instead to develop its own digital apparatus to execute its strategy. Hillary Clinton had the same opportunity to avail herself of Facebook’s “support folks” as Trump did, but chose a different option. It appears to have been a strategic mistake on her part (one of many).

And while Trump spent significantly more on Facebook ad buys than Clinton, it turns out that he paid for them at a higher rate. Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth shared data comparing the CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) of the two campaigns. 

“This chart shows that during (the) general election period, Trump campaign paid slightly higher CPM prices on most days rather than lower as has been reported,” tweeted Bosworth.

(That doesn’t mean that Facebook was cheating the Trump campaign by charging them higher rates. The CPM is determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of interactions and the number of followers.)

But it’s not Trump’s fault that Hillary chose to sink her campaign funds into pantsuits or whatever rather than Facebook ads. Nor is it Zuckerberg’s fault. By all accounts, both campaigns were offered identical services. In retrospect, Trump—or more likely his digital campaign strategist Brad Parscale—made smart decisions on digital, which ultimately helped push him over the top in November 2016.

The sour grapes about Hillary’s loss continue apace. Her supporters on the left can’t accept that she lost because she was an unlikeable candidate who ran a shambolic campaign. But blaming left-wing Facebook for her loss—and suggesting that the social media company may have put its thumb on the scale in order to help Trump win—is nothing short of batty.

Watch the exchange between Sarbanes and Zuckerberg below: