Twitter was told it was “bounced” from Wednesday’s meeting between tech executives and President-elect Donald Trump in retribution for refusing during the campaign to allow an emoji version of the hashtag #CrookedHillary, according to a source close to the situation.
Trump adviser Sean Spicer later denied the report, telling MSNBC that “the conference table was only so big.”
But POLITICO’s source said the social media company’s exclusion from the much-publicized, feel-good confab in Trump Tower stemmed from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s role in rejecting the anti-Clinton emoji — a rejection that brought public complaints from the president-elect’s campaign.
Twitter was one of the few major U.S. tech companies not represented at Wednesday afternoon’s Trump Tower meeting attended by, among others, Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Tesla’s Elon Musk — an omission all the more striking because of Trump’s heavy dependence on the Twitter platform. With some 17.3 million followers of his account, the president-elect has made Twitter into the de facto press channel of his transition operation.
Trump’s campaign also made a $5 million deal with Twitter before the election, in which the campaign committed “to spending a certain amount on advertising and in exchange receive discounts, perks, and custom solutions,” the campaign’s director of digital advertising and fund raising, Gary Coby, wrote in a Medium post last month. So the campaign objected when the company refused to allow the anti-Clinton emoji.
Coby wrote that Dorsey personally intervened to block the Trump operation from deploying the emoji, which would have shown, in various renderings, small bags of money being given away or stolen. That emoji would have been offered to users as a replacement for the hashtag #CrookedHillary, a preferred Trump insult for his Democratic opponent.
“We told them it was BS and what they were doing with a public platform was incredibly reckless and dangerous,” wrote Coby of the back-and-forth between the Trump operation and Twitter.
Spicer also objected to the company’s refusal, telling the Washington Examiner in October that “while Twitter claims to be a venue that promotes the free exchange of ideas, it’s clear that it’s leadership’s left wing ideology literally trumps that.”
POLITICO’s source said Spicer, who’s also the Republican National Committee spokesman, was the one who made the call to refuse an invitation to Dorsey or other Twitter executives to Wednesday’s meeting.
But Spicer rejected that in a Wednesday afternoon appearance on MSNBC, denying he made the a decision and saying Twitter’s absence was not an “intentional slight” of the company.
“The conference table was only so big,” Spicer said. “There was a lot of companies and if you go down the list of the top tech companies, I guarantee you you’ll find additional ones that weren’t there.”
Separately, one transition official told Reuters that the $13.85 billion company wasn’t invited “because they aren’t big enough.”
Spicer and the Trump-Pence transition team have not yet responded to POLITICO’s requests for comment about the story. Twitter also has not commented.
In recent days, Twitter also found itself standing apart from its Silicon Valley counterparts when it comes to Trump. It was the only major tech company to say on the record that it would refuse to participate in building a database of Muslims, a prospect the president-elect has floated.
Wednesday’s meeting — organized by Silicon Valley investor, Facebook board member and Trump adviser Peter Thiel — did include tech executives who have been the target of public beefs from Trump. He has criticized Cook over Apple’s refusal to decrypt a cellphone used by one of the gunmen in last December’s terrorist-inspired mass shooting in California, for example, and Bezos over his ownership of The Washington Post.