When a presidential inauguration rolls around, it’s party time in DC. Industry groups, corporations, and media organizations throw booze-filled parties, allowing them to get cozy with the new regime and rub elbows with industry and political allies. And some people just want to be seen to be seen.
Facebook, which has a big lobbying presence in Washington, didn’t miss out on the opportunity to get boozy in DC. On Tuesday night, the world’s largest social network teamed up with the right-wing website The Daily Caller, per an invite, to throw a bash. Politico reported that oil giant BP (you know, like Deep Water Horizon BP) sponsored the party too.
The party was held at the top of the posh Hay Adams hotel, right by the White House. Politico reported that several media notables were present, including radio host and possible Senate candidate Laura Ingraham, plagiarist Benny Johnson, and Matt Boyle, Washington political editor of Breitbart. Others included Grover Norquist and, inexplicably, disgraced political advisor Scooter Libby.
One person who wasn’t invited but showed up anyway: poop-faced goblin Martin Shkreli. The Hill’s Taylor Lorenz, who Shkreli has previously harassed and called “ugly,” saw Shkreli at the party and tweeted about their serendipitous encounter. Lorenz told Gizmodo that a Daily Caller employee told her that Shkreli was not on the list for the party. A Daily Caller spokesperson confirmed to Gizmodo that Shkreli “just showed up” and was not invited.
Another journalist, Foreign Policy’s John Hudson, tweeted a photo of Shkreli hunched over a beer in what seems to be an underpopulated part of the room.
Hudson told Gizmodo the party was “fine” and was “wrapping up by midnight.”
Lorenz told Gizmodo that Shkreli spent most of his time at the party “just creepily standing there by the Facebook Live set,” where he was “not being interviewed” and where “no one was engaging with him,” adding that “there were actual legit important people there.”
Facebook branding dominated the party, from the Facebook Live set and stage to the goddamn lemons in the drinks:
Facebook routinely partners with news organizations in a variety of ways, from Instant Articles to Facebook Live. It sponsored events at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions last year, too. And it’s understandable that Facebook, as a dominating force in American media today, would want to make a splash at the inauguration.
But it’s less clear why the company decided to partner with the Daily Caller to do that—let alone do it on a Tuesday night, before many people would even arrive in DC for the inaugural festivities. Given Facebook’s professed commitment to combating “fake news,” it’s interesting that it would partner with a website that has such a poor record on truth. See, for example, the publication Snopes’ record, which includes a story falsely claiming that George Soros was helping Clinton rig voting machines. The site strives to be offensive and ends up being offensively dumb, featuring headlines like “Genetic Male Bradley Manning Pulls Off The Klinger Gambit.”
The Facebook Live set was put to good use by the Daily Caller, which recorded chummy interviews with politicians and conservative media stars, like potential Senate candidate and LifeZette owner Laura Ingraham. In one video, Daily Caller reporters Vince Coglianese and Kaitlan Collins told viewers they’d be using Facebook Live to bring their questions directly to the Trump White House, because “there is a massive wave of people watching live right now who have very different views about what this country is, and that it should have borders and it should be about America first.” Coglianese went on to say “I know a lot of you are writing right now [saying] I’m ‘deplorable from wherever,’” at which point Collins jumped in to say, “We love the deplorables!”
In an email to Gizmodo, Coglianese said of the partnership that “I asked and they said yes. I’m glad they did,” and that the site “worked very closely with Facebook throughout the 2016 election, hosting Facebook Lives from their sets in Cleveland, Hempstead, St. Louis and New York City.”
When asked about the decision to partner with the Daily Caller, a Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo that “there was a Facebook Live setup at the party at which a number of notable attendees went Live to describe the goings-on,” and that “We hope our platform will give people across the world the opportunity to document and experience this historic event from backstage to center stage, even if they can’t be there in person.”
With Trump came a new wave of power for the right-wing and alt-right media; there’s no greater example than Steve Bannon’s jump from head goon of Breitbart to White House adviser. It’s clear, too, that the Trump White House will eagerly attack more mainstream outlets while engaging and tweeting right-wing news sources. If the tide is turning towards batshit conservatism in media and in government, Facebook seems to be eager to jump on board.