Kevin Cernekee, a former Google engineer who told several media outlets that he was fired for being an outspoken conservative, had a history of defending white nationalist ideals and organizations, according to a lengthy internal email posted by another conservative employee in 2018.
However, Cernekee denies he agrees with alt-right viewpoints, and says he was simply being smeared for being an advocate of free speech.
Mike Wacker, a Google employee who describes himself as a conservative, claimed Cernekee led conversations that defended white nationalism and garnered a band of followers internally. Wacker’s message, which was initially sent to an internal mailing list for Republican Googlers in 2018 and forwarded to CNBC, shows that even some conservative employees have been at odds with the far-right conservatives within the company. The Daily Caller reported on the Cernekee’s internal messages Monday night.
Google has faced public criticism by vocal employees from both sides of the aisle. In early 2018, former Google engineer James Damore claimed Google leaders discriminated against him and other employees for having conservative views. Some liberal employees who organized a massive walkout for policies against sexual harassment, alleged company leaders also retaliated against them for speaking out.
Alt-right or free speech?
In the last week, Cernekee went on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and created a GoFundMe.com account hoping to raise $15,000. He was also featured in a The Wall Street Journal profile published Thursday. In each interview, Cernekee, who didn’t immediately respond to CNBC requests for comment, claims he was terminated in 2018 because he was conservative and he was “bullied.”
Wacker, who left Google in 2019, saw things quite differently. According to his email, Cernekee defended or minimized alt-right views as part of an attempt by extreme right-wing conservatives to infiltrate the company.
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“For over a year, I have seen the alt-right try and work their influence at Google, infiltrating mailing lists, infiltrating Google’s culture, and even trying to infiltrate Google’s product decisions,” Wacker wrote in the email.
Among the allegations, Wacker claims Cernekee did the following:
- Requested to “put together a group donation in the name of ‘freespeech@Google’” to help fund Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank.
- Called alt-right crowdfunding platform WeResearchr his “friends.”
- Defended the Golden State Skinheads, which espouses neo-Nazi ideology on its website, in a situation where a rally turned violent. He also claimed the term “skinhead” had some “unfortunate baggage.”
- Started a thread criticizing how Google’s Chrome Web Store had removed the Coincidence Detector app, a Chrome plugin that wraps three sets of parentheses (known as “echoes”) around names on web pages that appear to be Jewish. According to Wacker, Cernekee wrote “I was just surprised that Google banned an app for adding silly punctuation” and “Google stands for free speech and we should have thoroughly discussed the implications of censoring the app, rather than succumbing to knee-jerk reactions just because an internet journalist wrote a misinformed article to stoke outrage."
In a statement to CNBC, Cernekee called Wacker’s memo “false and baseless smears from a jealous and vindictive ex-colleague” and claimed that he “always supported free speech and opposed white nationalism. He says he was routinely and unfairly labeled as “Alt-Right” because he spoke out against violence against Spencer, who was punched in the face at a rally in January 2017, and others.
“While I strongly disagree with Spencer’s views, I found this precedent absolutely horrifying, and I spoke out,” Cernekee said in a statement to CNBC. “I also spoke out against a masked gang of Antifa thugs who violently attacked a skinhead group. I would have unabashedly defended far-left activists if violent right wingers had attacked them. I have been steadfast in maintaining that the rule of law and the right to peacefully protest are cornerstones of our society.” (Cernekee’s full statement appears at the end of this piece.)
In his email, Wacker alleged that Google sent both him and Cernekee to an external organization for mediation. Ultimately, no one was punished, he added.
“We have two problems at Google: the alt-right, and those who can’t tell the difference between the right and the alt-right,” Wacker stated in the email. “One of my persistent worries is that the alt-right will one day cause some sort of controversy at Google, but the right will end up taking the blame for their actions.”
A Google spokesperson told CNBC that Cernekee was fired because he violated multiple company policies, including using a personal device to download internal Google documents. He has since turned over tens of thousands of pages of documents as a part of a judge-ordered requirement, the company added. Google declined to comment on Wacker’s email. Wacker declined to comment for this article.
Here is Cernekee’s full statement:
These are false and baseless smears from a jealous and vindictive ex-colleague. I have always supported free speech and opposed white nationalism. I addressed these smears in more depth here. To that point, I occasionally defended the free speech of extremists, and I frequently spoke out against Antifa mobs who supported shutting down political discussion through force. When the infamous white nationalist leader Richard Spencer was sucker punched in the face during an interview, several Googlers openly defended the violent act and took to internal company forums to promote the idea the “Nazis deserve to be punched.
While I strongly disagree with Spencer’s views, I found this precedent absolutely horrifying, and I spoke out. I also spoke out against a masked gang of Antifa thugs who violently attacked a skinhead group. I would have unabashedly defended far-left activists if violent right wingers had attacked them. I have been steadfast in maintaining that the rule of law and the right to peacefully protest are cornerstones of our society.
Unfortunately, very few Googlers adhere to the maxim “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say.” Instead, they believe that defending free speech of despicable fringe characters means you must agree with them. For merely opposing Antifa violence, I was routinely accused of being “Alt Right” despite never endorsing those positions.
I firmly believe that once political violence and censorship are normalized as acceptable tactics, there is no stopping point and America’s political situation will turn extremely ugly. In just the last few days, three Democratic presidential candidates have described the President as a White Nationalist. Antifa have justified attacks on mainstream conservatives such as Tucker Carlson and Andy Ngo on the grounds that they are fascists. Conservative gatherings are routinely attacked by masked thugs, who operate with impunity and shut down the debate by force.
In the wake of the violent despicable, horrific, and racist mass murder in El Paso, the media will undoubtedly advance a narrative that concerns about Antifa violence should be disregarded. There is no question that murdering dozens of innocent people due to their race is exponentially worse than dousing politicians with sticky milkshakes. Yet this doesn’t make the latter an acceptable form of protest.