Blackburn asks Google if employee who criticized her still has a job

By Steven Overly
·1 min read

Sen. Marsha Blackburn used a Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday to ask about the employment status of a Google engineer whose criticism of the Tennessee Republican has become fodder for right-wing media outlets over the past two years.

Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asked CEO Sundar Pichai whether Blake Lemoine, a senior software engineer and artificial intelligence researcher, still has a job at Google.

“He has had very unkind things to say about me and I was just wondering if you all had still kept him working there,” Blackburn said during the hearing, where she and other GOP lawmakers accused tech companies of squelching free speech.

Pichai said he did not know Lemoine’s employment status.

Breitbart News reported in 2018 that Lemoine had criticized Blackburn’s legislative record in excerpts of internal company messages and said Google should not “acquiesce to the theatrical demands of a legislator.”

“I’m not big on negotiation with terrorists,” Lemoine said, according to Breitbart.

Blackburn didn't explicitly say whether she thought Google should fire Lemoine. Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Breitbart News and other right-wing media outlets have pointed to leaked company communications as evidence of anti-conservative bias in Silicon Valley, a notion that Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump have amplified in the lead-up to the 2020 election. Pichai, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter Jack Dorsey all rejected the bias accusations during Wednesday's hearing.