Politics & Government

Google apologizes for labeling NC state senator as a ‘bigot’ in search results

North Carolina Sen. Trudy Wade
North Carolina Sen. Trudy Wade File photo

Google has apologized to Republican North Carolina state Sen. Trudy Wade for an old photo of her with the superimposed word ‘bigot’ in red capital letters that appeared on the search engine’s results related to the senator’s name.

A story published by Vice about the photo, which was then distributed by media aggregator Drudge, prompted the apology from Google on Friday.

“We apologize to Senator Wade that this image appeared in the Knowledge Panel in Search,” Google said in a tweet.

“Images that appear in the Knowledge Panel are either selected by verified users or are automatically sourced from sites across the web.”

A knowledge panel is the box that populates on the right-hand side of the screen of the search results. The panel provides an overview of information based on the search terms.

Wade's photo came from a student news blog, Google said in a tweet.

Google removed the photo later on Friday, after the Drudge Report brought national attention to the story, Wade said in a statement.

"Although I appreciate Google’s belated apology, if I’m being completely honest it rang a bit hollow," Wade said in a statement.

After an aide requested Google take down the photo, Google told the aid to find and contact the original author of the photo, Wade said.

"Only after Drudge Report posted it to a national audience and it began to go viral on social media did Google do the right thing," Wade said.

Screenshots of Google's response to a request to remove the photo include: "We think the image you're trying to remove hasn't been removed by the site owner. Before Google can remove it from our search results, the site owner needs to take down or update the content ... Your request can't be processed until the site owner removes or updates the page."

Google then provided instructions for contacting the site owner.

On June 3, Matt Comer, who posted the "bigot" image, tweeted that Wade never contacted him.

"But even if she had, I wouldn’t have taken down the image. Facts are facts, and the fact is: Trudy Wade is a bigot," he wrote.

Wade is seeking re-election in District 27, which includes parts of Greensboro and Guilford County, and is facing Democrat Michael Garrett for a second time.

Wade isn’t the only Republican to face bizarre opposition this week. Republicans have a supermajority in the state House and state Senate. The state budget proposal, which passed this week, was mostly written without the input of Democrats.

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GOP members wrote the budget bill behind closed doors, and for the first time in North Carolina’s modern history, neither Republicans nor Democrats were able to suggest amendments to the annual budget bill.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Democratic state Rep. Mickey Michaux compared Republicans’ tactics while passing the state budget to rape.

"Today we have seen a rape of this budget," Michaux said. "And I'm having problems right now trying to reconcile whether I'm in North Carolina or North Korea."

Michaux stands by the comment he made expressing anger about how the budget was written.

"We on this side have had no input,” Michaux said earlier this week to The News & Observer.

“No input at all on how this budget was crafted ... so yeah, sometimes it takes strong words to make people realize what's happening to them."

Democratic Rep. Mickey Michaux says that Republicans committed "rape" of the budget during a press conference held at the General Assembly Building in Raleigh on May 29, 2018.

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