Facebook's outgoing communications head reportedly takes the blame for hiring controversial PR firm

  • Facebook's outgoing head of communications and public policy said he knew and approved the decision to hire the Washington-based public relations firm Definers Public Affairs, according to an internal memo reported by TechCrunch.
  • Elliot Schrage, who announced in June that he was leaving, admitted that his team asked Definers to push negative narratives about Facebook's competitors.
  • But he denied that the company asked the PR firm to distribute or create fake news, according to the TechCrunch report.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Vice President of global communications and public policy Elliot Schrage on Capitol Hill after meeting with U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in Washington, U.S. October 12, 2017.
James Lawler Duggan | Reuters
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Vice President of global communications and public policy Elliot Schrage on Capitol Hill after meeting with U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in Washington, U.S. October 12, 2017.

Facebook's outgoing head of communications and public policy said that he knew and approved the decision to hire controversial public relations firm, Definers Public Affairs, according to an internal memo reported by TechCrunch.

Elliot Schrage, who announced in June that he was leaving, said his team asked Definers to push negative narratives about Facebook's competitors. But he denied that the company asked the PR firm to distribute or create fake news, according to the TechCrunch report.

He also admitted that Facebook asked Definers to conduct research on liberal financier George Soros.

Facebook did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comments, which were sent after office hours.

"I knew and approved of the decision to hire Definers and similar firms. I should have known of the decision to expand their mandate," Schrage said in the memo.

Last week, an extensively reported New York Times article said that Definers wrote dozens of articles that tried to deflect negative attention onto rivals Google and Apple and pushed the idea that Soros was behind a growing anti-Facebook movement.

Facebook expanded its relationship with Definers in October 2017 after enduring a year's worth of external criticism over its handling of Russian interference on its social network, according to the report.

"Over the past decade, I built a management system that relies on the teams to escalate issues if they are uncomfortable about any project, the value it will provide or the risks that it creates. That system failed here and I'm sorry I let you all down. I regret my own failure here." -Elliot Schrage, Facebook

In an interview with CNN that aired Tuesday night, Mark Zuckerberg said he will not step down as chairman of the board after the latest disclosure of scandals within the company. He also praised Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg despite a report earlier this month that claimed Zuckerberg blamed Sandberg and her team for many of the problems plaguing the social networking giant.

For her part, Sandberg also responded to the Times report last week and said that the social network was no longer working with Definers. She added the she didn't know Facebook had hired the PR firm or the work they were doing. "But I should have," she said.

In the memo, Schrage criticized the fact that much of the internal discussions and "finger pointing" within the company had become public, TechCrunch reported.

He added that his replacement, former UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, will review all of the tech giant's work with consultants and propose better management processes.

"Over the past decade, I built a management system that relies on the teams to escalate issues if they are uncomfortable about any project, the value it will provide or the risks that it creates. That system failed here and I'm sorry I let you all down. I regret my own failure here," Schrage said in the memo.

Sandberg responded to the memo and said that she oversees Facebook's communications team and took "full responsibility for their work and the PR firms who work with us," according to TechCrunch.

Read more about TechCrunch's report on Elliot Schrage's memo here.

— CNBC's Steve Kovach contributed to this report.