Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg answered a question Wednesday afternoon that’s been a hot topic of debate in recent days: Will Facebook – a company that wields extraordinary influence in the media world – keep someone on its board who has funded a legal fight seen by many as an effort to destroy a media company?

The answer, Sandberg said in an onstage chat at a technology conference Wednesday, is yes.

Speaking in Los Angeles, Sandberg responded to questions, saying that her fellow Facebook director, billionaire Peter Thiel, will remain on the board. The question followed the revelation last week that Thiel helped fund a lawsuit against Gawker Media involving a Hulk Hogan sex tape after negative coverage he’d received from the gossip site.

“I know this has been actively discussed here and it should be actively discussed, because issues of independence and the media are key to democracy and key to all of us,” she said. “Peter did what he did on his own, not as a Facebook board member. We didn’t know about it.”

Sandberg’s response follows days of criticism and questions over what Facebook would say about the issue. Some journalists and corporate governance advisers had said Thiel should step down from Facebook’s board or that Mark Zuckerberg should ask him to resign.

Others raised questions over the apparent divide between Facebook’s media role and Thiel’s seat on the board. As tech writer Sara Swisher put it in a post: “If you are putting yourself out there as a friend of media in order to get them to use your platform, having a director go undercover rogue in some cloak-and-dagger revenge plot to decimate a publisher is probably going to be an issue that needs some discussion.”

In an interview with the New York Times last week, Thiel said his actions were “less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” saying “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”

Whatever his motivations, Sandberg was careful to distance Facebook. “We want to be clear Peter did what he did as an independent person. He didn’t do it at Facebook – we didn’t know – and he didn’t use any Facebook resources,” she said. “I understand there are complicated issues here, but this was something done independently with no Facebook resources.”