Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey has been dogged by the media ever since The Daily Beast reported that the inventor had donated a small portion of his $700 million fortune to non-profit organization Nimble America to pay for a billboard featuring a large-headed Hillary Clinton with the words, “Too Big To Jail.”
Luckey was forced to issue a public statement to clarify that his donation did not represent either Oculus or Facebook, and apologized for the impact it had on the VR community to appease developers who saw Luckey’s opposition to Hillary Clinton as an embrace of fascism.
Following these revelations, a multitude of websites launched into speculation about how Luckey was secretly bankrolling “Trump’s racist meme machine” [Ars Technica], and “Trump shitposters” [Kotaku], among many other incendiary headlines that painted the multi-millionaire as a poster child for the alt-right. VentureBeat’s Jeff Grubb even tried to tie Palmer Luckey to the National Rifle Association for his use of the term “LEO” (law enforcement officer).
Gizmodo’s William Turton even published a series of insubstantial posts titled “Palmer Watch,” which tracked Luckey’s disappearance from the public spotlight for over a hundred days until Luckey resigned from Facebook. Turton even took aim at Luckey’s girlfriend, Nikki Moxxi, for supporting GamerGate–a crusade first started by his colleague Bryan Menegus.
Responding to inquiries about Gizmodo’s coverage, Lynn Walsh, the President of the Society of Professional Journalists, said bringing family members and friends into stories for no reason is unethical.
The media hasn’t relented in its coverage of the Oculus creator. A report by Mother Jones in April revealed that Luckey contributed at least $100,000 to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee through an LLC named after the classic video game Chrono Trigger. Responding on Twitter, Luckey explained:
The Washington Post described the Oculus co-founder’s new startup as a “shell company”—an accusation Luckey did not take lightly.
This week, Luckey shed his silence on the media’s coverage of him by declaring reports from Washington Post, The Verge, Kotaku and Polygon to be essentially speculative and sensationalist. Linking to a previously underpublicized Reddit post, the Oculus creator noted that the Mother Jones article never referred to his corporation as a “shell company,” and that the label was simply tacked on by sensationalist journalists.
Luckey wrote a follow-up post to say that “[the] articles getting most of the clicks and shares did not just have incomplete headlines, they had completely false information in both the headline and body. People who read those entire articles came away believing in fabricated information that had no grounding in fact.”
“They did so not because they were irresponsible readers who ran with a headline, but because outlets they trusted posted things that are just not true,” he wrote.
“There were multiple supposedly reputable outlets outright claiming that I paid teams of people to harass others online, that I funded the creation of white supremacist memes, and that I was somehow responsible for filling Facebook and Twitter feeds with said memes,” added Luckey. “All false, and this timeline does not even get into how those types of claims spread across tech and gaming podcasts and forums.”