Back in June, the New York Times started scratching its head over Mark Zuckerberg's "uneasy alliance" with the Trump administration, asking: "What's Facebook's deal with Donald Trump?" In an interview with Axios' Mike Allen, however, the Facebook CEO is now pushing back on those whispers, insisting there's been no behind-the-scenes partnership. "Let me be clear: There's no deal of any kind," he says, adding such speculation is "pretty ridiculous." Zuckerberg has been accused of catering to Trump, letting the president and others put up incendiary, doctored, misleading, or outright false posts, all ostensibly in the name of free speech, per an article last month in the Washington Post. Displeasure with the social network's stance has led to a massive advertiser boycott.
Zuckerberg insists to Allen he doesn't agree with Trump on multiple topics, including immigration, climate change, and Trump's "divisive and inflammatory rhetoric," but that "I believe deeply in giving people a voice, even when I disagree with them." In a Facebook interview last week with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Zuckerberg blasted Trump's response to the pandemic. "Our government and this administration have been considerably less effective in handling this" than other countries, Zuckerberg said, per CBS News. As for a private October dinner he had with Trump, Zuckerberg tells Allen, "I accepted the invite for dinner because I was in town and he is the president of the United States." He adds he had similar meals and meetups with former President Obama. A White House official tells Allen the president "has always respected Zuckerberg's strong pro-First Amendment position." (More Mark Zuckerberg stories.)