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President Donald Trump attacked Google in an early morning tweetstorm Tuesday, alluding to claims of the company’s liberal political bias after becoming incensed by a Fox News interview with a fired employee once dubbed Google’s “face of the alt-right” by a colleague.
In the thread, Trump claimed that Google chief executive Sundar Pichai had visited the White House to tell the president “what a great job” he was doing and to assure him that Google was not anti-conservative.
Trump then pivoted.
“It all sounded good until I watched Kevin Cernekee, a Google engineer, say terrible things about what they did in 2016.”
.@sundarpichai of Google was in the Oval Office working very hard to explain how much he liked me, what a great job the Administration is doing, that Google was not involved with China’s military, that they didn’t help Crooked Hillary over me in the 2016 Election, & that they...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2019
... are NOT planning to illegally subvert the 2020 Election despite all that has been said to the contrary. It all sounded good until I watched Kevin Cernekee, a Google engineer, say terrible things about what they did in 2016 and that they want to “Make sure that Trump losses...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2019
...in 2020.” Lou Dobbs stated that this is a fraud on the American public. @peterschweizer stated with certainty that they suppressed negative stories on Hillary Clinton, and boosted negative stories on Donald Trump. All very illegal. We are watching Google very closely!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2019
Indeed, hours earlier, on Monday evening, Trump tweeted out a clip from Lou Dobbs Tonight featuring Cernekee.
Cernekee claims that he was fired in 2018 because of his conservative political views expressed on the company’s internal message boards.
A Wall Street Journal article, however, reports that he was let go for “improperly downloading company information and misuse of the remote-access software system.”
Still, since his firing, Cernekee has been hosted on multiple right-wing media shows to tell his story, which is complementary to a long-running conservative theory that big tech companies are biased against them. Cernekee has repeated claims that Google executives “want Trump to lose in 2020.”
But at Google, even conservative coworkers found his views out there, and he was dubbed “face of the alt-right” in an internal memo.
In a statement to TechCrunch on Tuesday, Google dismissed Cernekee as a “disgruntled former employee” and that his allegations are “absolutely false.”
On Monday, the same day Cernekee appeared on Dobbs show and before Trump’s tweet, right-wing media outlet the Daily Caller acquired and published excerpts from the former engineer’s listserv posts, written while he was employed at Google.
Cernekee is reported to have suggested a fundraiser for white supremacist Richard Spencer, after he was punched during an interview, and discussed how far-right skinhead groups might rebrand to avoid the “baggage” associated with their current image.
In his defense, Cernekee said he has “always supported free speech and opposed white nationalism.”
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David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.