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Zuckerberg says he and Sandberg will stay put, even after Facebook’s scandals

Despite accusations that Facebook engaged in a smear campaign against its critics, the company's top two executives leaders will keep their jobs.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a House hearing on April 11, 2018.
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a House hearing on April 11, 2018.Read moreAndrew Harrer / Bloomberg

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg will not step down as chairman, he said in an interview that aired on CNN Tuesday night, and he will not dismiss Sheryl Sandberg, his top lieutenant and chief operating officer.

The remarks came after a major report by The New York Times, which said the social network smeared its critics, and as a series of scandals has rocked the company in recent months.

Facebook and the two executives drew critical headlines after last week's report, which revealed an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign designed to avoid accountability for the company's missteps, involving Russian propaganda, privacy violations and the massive spread of hateful posts.

"She has been an important partner for me for 10 years," Zuckerberg said in the interview. "I am really proud of the work we have done together and hope we work together for decades more to come."

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook hired an opposition research firm to discredit critics by linking them to the liberal philanthropist George Soros, according to The Times, as part of the company's communications strategy, which Sandberg oversees. The Open Society Foundations, a philanthropic organization founded by Soros, strongly objected to what it described as Facebook's "unsavory tactics." The group accused the company of mimicking right-wing efforts to demonize Soros, who is a frequent target of anti-Semitic vitriol from the far right.

"It's important for Facebook to recognize that this isn't a public relations problem – it's a fundamental challenge for the platform and their business model," Sen. Mark R. Warner, Va., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee told The Washington Post. "I think it took them too long to realize that."

Since the summer, after user growth slowed, a privacy breach affecting 29 million users, and ongoing concerns that the platform is a tool for ethnic cleansing, the company's share value has dived. But the tech industry as a whole has faced a punishing few months on Wall Street. Big-name tech giants, known as the "FAANGs" – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – have shed more than $1 trillion in value in the past 60 days. The tech company slide dragged the Nasdaq composite index down almost 15 percent from its recent peak, in August.

During Wednesday morning trading, Facebook was up 3.2 percent as the market bounced slightly after a few days of heavy losses.