By Howard Kurtz
Published September 14, 2018
Google may not be "rigged," as President Trump recently charged, but its leadership sure as hell is biased.
The leaking of a video of a post-election meeting that included co-founder Sergey Brin and other top executives is nothing short of stunning.
It is basically one long rant about Donald Trump winning the presidency, how awful this was for the world, and what Google should do in response. There's even a serious discussion, after an initial joke, of helping employees who want to move to Canada.
Here's why this is off the charts.
In the video, which was sent to Breitbart, the Googlers are acting like Trump's election calls for a national day of mourning — while the cameras are rolling. Within the confines of their Silicon Valley bubble, there is no sense that maybe they shouldn't say these things because one day this might get out.
Just as incredible is the absolute confidence that everyone in the room shares their views. With one brief exception, there is not even a flicker of recognition that some of the people working for this giant company might not be freaked out by Trump in the White House, and might even welcome it.
And most appalling of all, the executives assume that all Trump voters are dumb, or extremists, or bored, or something.
Brin kicks things off by saying that everyone is feeling sad. "Myself, as an immigrant, a refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive. And I know many of you do too. And I think it's a very stressful time, and that conflicts with many of our values."
Brin suggests a link between Trump voters and extremists, fascists and communists, attributing this to income disparity and perhaps boredom. "It sort of sneaks up sometimes, really bad things," he says.
Senior Vice President Kent Walker doesn't mince words. Taking aim at Trump supporters, he says that "fear, not just in the United States but around the world, is what's fueling concerns, xenophobia, hatred, and a desire for answers that may or may not be there."
Vice President Eileen Noughton, who discussed ways for staffers to leave the country, did make a bow to "diversity of opinion and political persuasion." She said she's heard from conservative employees who "haven't felt entirely comfortable" coming forward and called for "tolerance."
Keep in mind that the company last year fired engineer James Damore for saying in a memo that some employees are discriminated against due to their "perceived conservative political views by Google," "their male gender by Google," and "due to their Caucasian race by Google." (Damore also wrote that women are underrepresented in tech because of inherent psychological differences and "we need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.") He later compared being a conservative at Google to being gay in the 1950s.
The company said in a statement that "some Google employees and executives expressed their own personal views in the aftermath of a long and divisive election season. For over 20 years, everyone at Google has been able to freely express their opinions at these meetings. Nothing was said at that meeting, or any other meeting, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products. To the contrary, our products are built for everyone ..."
I'm sorry, that's a pretty lame response that doesn't go to the core problem of Google's culture.
I'm going to be fair and not automatically assume that just because Brin and company are liberal anti-Trumpers they are cooking the virtual books. Google is a machine, and it would be impossible to tilt every search for a desired political outcome even if they wanted to.
But humans write the algorithms, and it’s not hard to believe, in light of the video, that sometimes there’s a thumb on the scale, or that some conservatives get pushed down in the all-important rankings.
This is just another reason to distrust Big Tech. And until Google's leaders address its left-leaning culture more candidly, those doubts will continue to cloud the company’s reputation.