Facebook said that the upcoming speech by board member and investor Peter Thiel at the GOP convention is "personal."
"Peter Thiel is attending and speaking at the RNC in his personal capacity. He is not attending on behalf of Facebook or to represent our views," said Facebook in a statement.
A Facebook spokesperson also noted that Thiel did not need the company’s permission to speak at the GOP event, when asked by Recode if he had cleared the appearance in support of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The speech that he will give on a prominent night of the Republican convention is likely to highlight Trump’s economic strength.
But it also puts the giant social network in a dicey position, given how partisan and — frankly — ugly this election has been. Recent polls show that voters are pretty much disenchanted with both sides and are overwhelming sick of this election already.
Wading into the political swamp is longtime Facebook director Thiel, Facebook’s earliest major investor. He has been very good at attracting controversy of late.
For example, Thiel signed up to be a Trump delegate earlier this year — also personal, said Facebook.
Then, Thiel emerged as the secret financial backer of a controversial lawsuit by wrestler Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media over a sex tape and took a victory lap for his successful attack and crowed that it was philanthropic. PERSONAL!!!
What next for the once-behind-the-scenes Thiel, who has long operated more quietly than most tech moguls? My guess: A cameo on "Game of Thrones" as foe of the Mother of Dragons!
So far, all this publicity and controversy has been very good for Thiel, and he seems to be enjoying it with little in the way of consequences.
In an interview at the Code Conference in May, for example, Facebook COO and director Sheryl Sandberg said Thiel’s surreptitious Gawker drone war was not related to the company and that he would remain on the board.
Still, she also did an almost imperceptible pushback on Thiel: "Issues of independence in media are key to democracy," Sandberg said. "Peter did what he did on his own. Not as a board member — and you should talk to him."
Thiel’s support of Trump has made him a true unicorn in Silicon Valley, which has pretty much decried the idea of a presidency presided over by the real estate mogul and reality-television star. Just today, a passel of tech figures published a letter saying so.
While the letter’s authors did not include Sandberg, she has been a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton, the Democrat’s presumptive nominee. Sandberg has also been floated many times recently as a possible cabinet member if Clinton were to prevail.
A possible political career for Sandberg has been mentioned a lot before, too — especially since she has been a Washington wonk before (she worked as chief of staff to former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers in the last Clinton administration before moving to Silicon Valley to work at Google). At one point, the rumor of her becoming commerce secretary under President Barack Obama was one that would not die, despite her publicly stating that she was not leaving Facebook. (She didn’t.)
Still, sources said that the Clinton campaign would love for Sandberg to have any kind of high-profile involvement in the election, and a speech at the convention would certainly check that box. A poised and effective public speaker, she also has become famous for her book (and social movement, really) "Lean In."
(You can see a very powerful and moving speech she made at Berkeley this year, if you want an example of her speaking talent, here.)
Neither Facebook or Sandberg would comment on the possibility of her having a more high-profile role in the campaign. A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign said that "it's premature to comment on speakers."
But a Facebook-off with Sandberg and Thiel on opposite sides of the political divide would be fascinating to watch and proof that Facebook really is the most perfectly pretzeled company in tech.
While Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Tim Cook have been unusually public with political statements of late, Facebook has been relatively even-handed.
Still, it is not that way behind the scenes. So, would I like to be a fly in that Facebook board room now? Yes, I would. Not surprisingly, one source said that having opposing political sides on the Facebook board was a good thing.
Good for Facebook, at least! The company recently attracted the ire of conservatives about how it surfaces its trending news, prompting Sandberg, Thiel and CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg to meet with a group of them earlier this year.
Yes, people, Silicon Valley is exactly like everywhere else now, doing the Potomac two-step with the flair of a "Dancing With the Stars" champion.
Sheryl Sandberg and others discuss Peter Thiel at Code Conference
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.