A video of Google’s first all-staff meeting following the 2016 election has been published by Breitbart, revealing the candid reactions of company executives to Donald Trump’s unexpected victory.
In an hour-long conversation, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, chief executive Sundar Pichai, and executives Kent Walker, Ruth Porat and Eileen Noughton offered their reflections on the election, sought to reassure employees about issues such as immigration status and benefits for same-sex partners, and answered questions on topics ranging from filter bubbles and political polarization to encryption and net neutrality.
The executives’ reactions ranged from the emotional to the philosophical to the purely pragmatic. Porat appeared near tears in discussing her open support for Hillary Clinton and her father, who was a refugee. Walker discussed global political trends toward nationalism, populism and xenophobia. Pichai noted that the company was already “thoughtfully engaging” with Trump’s transition team.
“As an immigrant and a refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive and I know many of you do too,” Brin said in opening the meeting. “I think it’s a very stressful time. It conflicts with many of our values. It’s a good time to reflect on that.”
The video was characterized by Breitbart as evidence of Google’s supposed partisan bias against Republicans – an allegation that has been made repeatedly by Trump, Republican lawmakers and conservative media outlets in recent months. “Masters of the universe vow to stop populism” read one of many banner headlines on the homepage of Breitbart, whose owners include the daughters of the conservative hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer.
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On Twitter, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said that the company “needs to explain why this isn’t a threat to the Republic”, and the president’s adult son, Donald Trump Jr, chimed in: “If this isn’t a Monopoly I don’t know what is.”
But the bombastic responses ignored the substance and true tenor of the meeting, which was more measured and less partisan than Breitbart implied.
Brin questioned the conventional wisdom that Trump voters were “people who were left behind”, noting that Clinton won “the low-income vote”. He also expressed empathy with anti-establishment voters, saying, “It feels kind of good to just like give DC a big kick when you vote … I can kind of get that.”
Noughton addressed the concerns of the company’s 10,000 employees on visas, but also encouraged employees to be inclusive of conservative co-workers.
“I do want to be clear that diversity also means diversity of opinion and political persuasion,” she said. “I have heard from some conservative Googlers in the past few days that they haven’t felt comfortable. We need to do better; we need to be tolerant, inclusive.”
Nevertheless, the leaked video will probably only fuel the Republican narrative that major technology companies are biased against conservatives. Just last week, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, faced four hours of questioning from a House committee, with Republican representatives focusing almost exclusively on specious allegations of anti-conservative bias.
“At a regularly scheduled all-hands meeting, some Google employees and executives expressed their own personal views in the aftermath of a long and divisive election season,” Google said in a statement.
“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, and we design them with extraordinary care to be a trustworthy source of information for everyone, without regard to political viewpoint.”