November 25th, 2009
12:52 PM ET
9 years ago

Google apologizes for results of 'Michelle Obama' image search

Type 'Michelle Obama' in the popular search engine Google, and one of the first images that turns up is a picture of the American first lady.

Type 'Michelle Obama' in the popular search engine Google, and one of the first images that turns up is a picture of the American first lady.

(CNN) - For most of the past week, when someone typed "Michelle Obama" in the popular search engine Google, one of the first images that came up was a picture of the American first lady altered to resemble a monkey.

On Wednesday morning, the racially offensive image appeared to have been removed from any Google Image searches for "Michelle Obama."

Google officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Google faced a firestorm of criticism over the episode. First, it banned the Web site that posted the photo, saying it could spread a malware virus. Then, when the image appeared on another Web site, Google let the photo stand. When a Google image search brought up the photo, an apologetic Google ad occasionally appeared above it.

The ad redirected users to a statement from Google which read, "Sometimes Google search results from the Internet can include disturbing content, even from innocuous queries. We assure you that the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google."

The California-based company then explained that search results rely on computer algorithms that take into account thousands of factors.

Full story

Updated: 12:52 p.m.

Filed under: Michelle Obama • Popular Posts
soundoff (114 Responses)
  1. once upon a horse

    somebody once did the same thing to President Bush where his face morphed into that of a just shows that there are some hateful people in our country with very warped senses of humor. Sad indeed.

    November 25, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Leave it up to FOX, the NY Post and the right wing of the republican party to post tasteless and disrespectful photos of the first family. Dispicable!!!!

    November 25, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    Offensive yes. Become outraged just because it is Mrs. Obama, NO!

    If we want to police bad behaviors on the internet, we need to do it for all, and not just for celebrities. Many ordinary citizens have had these kinds of things done to them, and there has been little outcry over that.

    The fact there are so many offensive people in the world, is a problem we all need to work on, and have little tolerance for, however.

    November 25, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  4. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    People never did this with Laura Bush, Barbara Bush or many of the other first ladies. Why would they do this with Michelle Obama? Two possible answers are: they are anti-black or they hate the president and figure that this will get him all ruffled and angry.

    November 25, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  5. Scott Stuart

    Its more of the same. I am so sickened by the vieled racism in this country. Nothing like electing an African American President to bring the subtle and ongoing racism in this country out into the open. I for one believe that the elements of right wing conservatism is a HUGE influence on this culture of exclusion and intolerance. May God bless us to rise up and be a better people than this

    November 25, 2009 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  6. ran

    Freedom of speech is not always pretty. That being said the photo is disgusting.

    November 25, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  7. abuse of free speech is part of our rights

    absolutely wrong, no doubt


    this has been happening with what ever the latest graphic drawing technology since our country allowed free speech

    does it make some higher point, further some discussion of merit?

    no, it is hurtful, childish and stupid... and karma probably has already come back around for the author of this, that is why they continue to do things that have no real benefit for themselves at all

    November 25, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  8. Thats Fuuny

    Get over it, people make fun of people based on skin color, religious views and sexual orientation all the time. We will never be a nation of equality until people can take a joke.

    November 25, 2009 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  9. csh

    This is sickening. Michelle Obama is lovely and is a magnificent role model and First Lady.

    November 25, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  10. Katelyn

    Just another stupid antic by a Republican bullying thug.

    November 25, 2009 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  11. JF

    Google sure is getting a lot of hits the last couple of days. This photo has been featured on CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, etc. The web host is getting just what he wants.

    And to those blaming Google–once again, misplaced anger. They are a search engine, not a web host. Direct your anger at the creative person who made the image, and at the website hosting it. Although, after the past couple of days, that image will be hosted all over the web. No amount of censoring will keep it away now.

    November 25, 2009 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  12. O-BOW-MA

    What's wrong with that? I've seen worse pictures of Hillary Clinton with carrots growing out of her butt all over the internet. I've see pictures of Sarah Palin depicted in horrible manner all over the net, it did not grab headline or ticker from CNN. MeShell looking like a monkey depicted in cyberspace receive top billing for ticker in CNN? What a joke! It's not her face that makes people think she's in the family of primates ( we're all primates) but her ATTITUDE: SLY, CONNIVING, A BIG LIAR LIKE HER HUSBAND whose average approval rating is now BELOW 50, just like your rating going south too.. The Obama's is full of drama.

    November 25, 2009 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  13. Robin

    Disrespectful, rude, wrong.

    But there is a double standard when it comes to political satire. Bush was depicted as a monkey, Dracula, the Joker, and Hitler, to name a few. Images have been photoshopped over the face of Sarah Palin's baby.

    Libs laugh at those images, but cry foul when the Obama's fall prey.

    Why? Why such a double standard? Don't all Presidents, First Ladies, etc. get the same respect?

    November 25, 2009 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  14. Sam

    Don't "Type Michelle Obama' in the popular search engine Google. Just let the image die. It's rude. I would say the same thing about an image of former President Bush as a monkey. There are so many rude and even horrifying things on the internet. We have the right and the ability to see and post awful things but civilized individuals make their own choices not to post or see them.

    November 25, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  15. Amazing

    Oh who cares! They used to make George Bush a monkey and nobody got outraged over that. This hypocritical double standard is really wearing thin.

    November 25, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  16. barbara

    I agree that there are thousands of offensive pics, language, videos and the like all over the internet and that one can not delete everything that some person finds offensive. if that were the case then there would be nothing on the internet because at least one person somewhere in this world will find everything offensive. If you do not like the pic or the video or the content then leave the offending site and dont look at it again.

    November 25, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  17. Tanya Kujath t

    What can you do? You can't remove the personal views of every Idiot out there. As much as it makes you realize there is no hope for some people this is just the nature of he world.

    November 25, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  18. imacjr

    Former President was also dipicted as a monkey, using the same or much similiar monkey image. WHERE WAS THE OUTRAGE???

    November 25, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  19. TangledThorns

    Hmm, same thing happened with Bush. Hooray for liberal hypocrisy!

    November 25, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  20. Bob

    Gee, so this is a big deal? Do a Google search for George Bush. See how many monkey images there are of him. There's even a website called bush or chimp, something like that. Did all these whiners about Obama complain out loud when Bush was parodied like that? Probably not. Free speech is a wonderful thing, just know it works both ways. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

    November 25, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  21. Fair is Fair

    Did Google apologize for all of the images of Sarah Palin floating around? Of course not. But what did you expect in this politically correct country. Enough is enough already.

    November 25, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  22. Steve

    Her husbands actions, and lack of, bring outrage to me!

    November 25, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  23. John

    Guys wake-up. This is all timed...Obama's poll numbers drop and they play the race card. Their willing minions in the media play it up to get the sympathy affect toward the poor Obamas.

    Don't let these marxist thugs divert your attention from the mess they are making of this country.

    It is just a picture, don't look at it if you don't want too.

    November 25, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  24. Bpin

    I think it is poor taste to degrade any of our leaders, regardless of what party they are affiliated with. Having said that, it is not against the law and you can draw whatever conclusion that you want to and that is not against the law either. Poor taste is poor taste. Our country is trying to "silently" change our constitution by making "political correctness" the rule for keeping citizens and media from exercising their first amendment rights. Some media outlets are so politically correct that it causes them to distort the real news. The best way to avoid poor taste is to not pay any attention to it, and it will usually go away. We can't do that anymore. Now, we must make a huge story out of it so we can make sure the level of political correctness is properly applied. No wonder we have high unemployment. Too many people see it as their full time job to measure political correctness.

    November 25, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  25. Gary

    In 2009 this is a sad commentary. The person who made this photo should be ashamed of themselves. Ironically in the end I'll bet it turns out to be some computer saavy punk kid who did it. Some liberal kid whose parents never disciplined growing up. That's usually what we find out in the end.

    November 25, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
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