George W. Bush Aide Gives Mark Zuckerberg Crash Course in Communication Skills Before Congressional Hearing

In this Nov. 9, 2017, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg meets with a group of entrepreneurs and innovators during a round-table discussion in St. Louis. As Zuckerberg prepares to testify before Congress over Facebook’s privacy fiasco, public-relations experts who have prepped CEOs before have plenty of advice on handling …
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

A former special assistant who served under President George W. Bush is giving Mark Zuckerberg a crash course in communication skills before the Facebook chief executive appears Tuesday on Capitol Hill to testify before Congress.

The New York Times reported that Facebook hired several experts, including Reginald J. Brown—a former special assistant to Bush—to give Zuckerberg public speaking lessons before he addresses committees in the House and Senate this week.

Brown is reportedly leading a team from the law firm WilmerHale and other outside consultants to prepare Zuckerberg to testify on Capitol Hill.

Facebook hired the outside help to prepare Zuckerberg for the questions he might encounter from lawmakers when he addresses Congress this week.

“For every major C.E.O., and now for Mark Zuckerberg, this is a rite of passage,” said Reed E. Hundt, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. “Facebook has become so important — not just to business but to society — it can’t avoid having to run the congressional gantlet.”

The company also set up mock-hearings and role play operations with its communications department and outside advisers acting as members of Congress.

Zuckerberg is slated to testify before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees on Tuesday and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old chief executive will testify before both House and Senate committees to explain how Facebook uses and protects “user data” after news broke that the data firm Cambridge Analytica harvested data from tens of millions of Facebook users.

The company is not only trying to coach Zuckerberg on how to woo Congress but is also trying to influence members of Congress with cold hard cash. Facebook and political groups associated with the social media company have donated roughly $381,000 to 46 of the 55 members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee since 2007.

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