Rep. Jim Jordan questions Google CEO Sundar Pichai about an effort by employees of the search engine to encourage Latinos to vote in the 2016 election. Jordan read emails from Eliana Murillo, Google's multicultural marketing head, describing Google's effort to turn out the Latino vote "in key states," like Nevada and Florida.
Pichai denied that the company had engaged in partisan political activity.
JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Pichai, in your opening statement you said, "I lead this company without political bias, and work to ensure that our products operate that way." Eliana Murillo is Google's head of multicultural marketing. Does Ms. Murillo do good work?
PICHAI: I'm not directly familiar with her work, but she's an employee of Google. And, you know, we are proud of our employees.
JORDAN: Well, you praised her work the day after the 2016 election. In a four-page e-mail she wrote about her work with the Latino vote. She said, "Even Sundar gave our effort a shout-out." Is she referring to you there?
PICHAI: She was referring to my communication around translation for a different related effort.
JORDAN: OK. Well, I'm going to look at two other sentences she had in that long e-mail, again, recapping her work in the 2016 election with the Latino vote. She said this, "We push to get out the Latino vote with our features." A few lines down in her e-mail she qualified that sentence.
And she said, "We push to get out the Latino vote with our features in key states." And she specifically cites the states Florida and Nevada. Near the end of her e-mail in a similar sentence she says, "We supported partners like Voto Latino to pay for rides to the polls in key states", with me?
I want to, kind of, analyze those two sentences. "We push to get out the Latino with our features in key states. We supported partners like Voto Latino to pay for rides to the polls in key states." Is it fair to say the "we" in both sentences, Mr. Pichai, refers to Google?
PICHAI: Congressman, we -- we -- we are very concerned whenever there are allegations like that. We -- we -- our team looked into it.
JORDAN: I'm not asking you that question. I'm asking you, is it fair to say the we in both sentences refers to the company Google?
PICHAI: As Google, we wouldn't participate in any partisan efforts around any civic process. So, I don't ...
PICHAI: ... I don't think so.
JORDAN: So, this is -- so, "we" pushed and "we" supported partners like Voto Latino to pay for rides in polls in key states. And we push to get out the Latino vote during the 2016 election.
And how were they getting that done? They were getting that done by -- according to Ms. Murillo, your Head of Multicultural Marketing, by altering your features, or configuring your features in such a way, and for paying for rides for people to get to the polls. Is that an accurate reading of those? That -- that's all I'm asking. Is that -- is that fair to say, what those sentences are talking about?
PICHAI: I haven't heard of all the specifics. But we did look into it. We found no evidence that there were any activity like from Google to a certain (ph) organization.
JORDAN: So, she's not telling the truth?
PICHAI: For sure. We didn't find any supporting evidence of any such activity.
JORDAN: She said she paid for rides to the polls, and they configured their features in such a way to get out the Latino vote. And look -- look, I actually think that's all OK, right? I think that -- that's just a good corporate citizen encouraging voter participation, encouraging people to participate in our election process.
I think, so far those sentences are just fine. But then, there's three words at the end of each sentence that do cause me real concern. And those three words are, "We push to get out the Latino vote with our features in key states."
Now, suddenly it gets political. "We supported partners like Voto Latino to pay for rides to the polls in key states." Now, that makes everything different. So, I've got really just one question for you. Why? Why -- why -- why did Google configure its features and pay for rides to the polls to get out the Latino vote only in key states?
PICHAI: Congressman, sincerely, we found no evidence to substantiate those claims. The only effort we do around elections...
JORDAN: So, your head of multicultural marketing, who you praised her work in this e-mail, gave her a shout-out, was lying when she said you were trying to get out the Latino vote in key states?
PICHAI: We -- today in the U.S. around elections, we make it -- and this is what users look to us for. Where to register to vote, where to find your nearest polling place, what are the hours they are open. And we do -- we do those things ...
JORDAN: That's not what I'm asking.
PICHAI: ... effectively.
JORDAN: I appreciate that, Mr. Pichai. And I already -- I already said that's just -- that's being a good corporate citizen. What I'm asking is, why did you only do it in key states?
PICHAI: We didn't do any such activity as Google on any of these key states. I mean, there are employees. I think they are part...
JORDAN: Did -- did you push to get out the Latino vote in all states?
PICHAI: As Google, we don't have goals around pushing out to get any particular segment. We don't participate in partisan activities. We engage with both campaigns. We support and sponsor debates across both sides of the aisle. And we provide users with information to get the election (ph).
JORDAN: Your head of multicultural marketing said you were pushing to get out the Latino vote, paying for rides to the poll -- to the polls for the Latino vote only in key states. And you're saying that's not accurate.
PICHAI: Yes, that's right. We haven't found any evidence to substantiate any...
JORDAN: So, she just made it up out of thin air the day after the election, and wrote this e-mail to your top executives. And it's not true?
PICHAI: Congress, happy to follow-up. But I think the employees today do their own activities.
JORDAN: I don't want the follow-up. I want the real answers right here in this committee.
PICHAI: As I said earlier, we have looked into it. We didn't find...
JORDAN: Did you push to get out the key vote in, I would say, the two most populous states for Latinos would be California and Texas. Did you push to get out the Latino vote, and pay for people to go to the polls in California and Texas?
PICHAI: We as a company didn't take (ph) any effort to push out votes for any particular demographic. That would be against our principles. We participate in the civic process in a nonpartisan way. And we think it's really important we do it that way.
JORDAN: Well, I just think it's interesting. Mr. Chairman, I know I'm over time, but I think it's interesting that their head of multicultural marketing writes an e-mail the day after the election where she talks about 71 percent of the Latino votes voted for Hillary, but that wasn't enough. And she talks about paying for rides to the polls in key states for Latino votes, to get out the Latino vote in key states. And the head of the company says that's not accurate.