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. Ben in Texas

    Whoever did this is a coward. He will never take credit for it, because he's a sniveling little snot with quaking knees. No real man would insult another man's wife like this. Michelle Obama is not a politician. She is the First Lady of the United States, so whoever created the disgusting image obviously hates America.

    November 25, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. Danny

    Google can't control this. The picture is being indexed through the many racist bigots who click on it. Google is not at fault. Michelle is not at fault.

    November 25, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  3. Steph

    People have the right to say and post very offensive things, but we have a right to also say that their behavior is a disgrace to American values. This type of racist behavior is just wrong!

    Michelle Obama is a beautiful person, and I admire her!

    November 25, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  4. Paul from Phoenix

    Interesting. Where was the outrage when Bush's visage was made into a monkey?

    November 25, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  5. kerd

    For the person(s) who placed the picture of Michelle Obama with the face of a monkey, what are you cowards afraid of anyway? A beautiful, graceful, black first Lady or someone who doesn't measure up to your racist standard? We already know you don't like the first family but there is nothing you can do to change who they are and what they represent to the American people.

    November 25, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  6. dennisk

    Let me check my calendar... No, it's not 1959...
    What kind of a genius does it take to come up with the idea of making fun of an African-American person by referencing a monkey? This says more about the creator/distributor of this vile image than it does about the object of his/her derision.
    Also, I think Google has handled this pretty well. It's not their job to police the content of the Internet, but I think it's good for them to let people know they find this kind of thing offensive, too.
    As for our First Lady: she is one of the brightest, classiest and most attractive residents of the White House that I can remember in my lifetime. I hope she (and her husband) are there for another 7+ years.

    November 25, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  7. Mike in LR

    What's the problem? According to liberals we all looked like that at one time. LOL!

    November 25, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  8. Nate from Atlanta

    Even though we have the right to free speech, Google has the right to censor as much as it wants on their OWN search engine. There is nothing wrong with what Google is doing here.

    November 25, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. Edwin

    What about the picture of Bush like a Chimpanzee? I don't think there was outrage over that. Michelle Obama is a public figure. Insulting pics go with the territory.

    November 25, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  10. Linda C in Cal

    So what's the problem here? Where was the outrage when Sarah Palin son's photo was doctored by the liberals, did you (yes, you, CNN) even bother to bring it up?

    November 25, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  11. AXH

    So why wasn't there the same "type" of outrage, fire storm when the left made images of Laura Bush in a less than flattering light?

    The usual American politics!

    November 25, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  12. America Shrugged

    Feeling powerless because they don't like who is in the WH, so attack the First Lady using an offensive picture. What a coward.

    November 25, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  13. Adalbert

    What do we expect from the teabaggers and the fox hate machine? They can not sink much lower or can they?

    November 25, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  14. HJA

    That's the problem with the Web. Cowards can lurk and do their thing. A lot of useless people out there. If they had to post a legit email this wouldn't happen.

    November 25, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  15. Miguel

    This is an example of the disgusting stain of racism still present in America. I knew there would be a backlash when an African American would be elected President. Whether it's the racist "tea-baggers" condoning death threats or bigoted pictures such as the one appearing on Google, racism is alive and well in America. We should not be deluded to think that just because America elected an African American President, that racism is over and done with. Shame on this country for not coming to terms its bigoted past and present.

    November 25, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  16. me

    I looked, it is not there. It is unfortunate that people have this need to do something like this. It is not even funny. She is our first lady, and needs to be respected as such. And she is cool.

    November 25, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  17. Dean in Florida

    I don't remember any critisism when this was done to President Bush.

    November 25, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  18. mjm

    Google George Bush and you'll see the same thing. There is one comparing Bush to a chimp. Shouldn't that one be removed as well?

    If it's unacceptable for one it should be for the other. THAT'S equality.

    November 25, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  19. teena

    And here I thought the right wing evangelical movement didn't believe in evolution!

    November 25, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  20. geecee

    How hateful people can be! Really, really hateful. I hope karma comes back and bites them real bad.

    November 25, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  21. Agatha Tran

    Free speech is all nice and good but when it's such a blatant act of racism or bigotry, I think it should be banned. You ask where do you draw the line? Well, you have to draw it somewhere. So what if there are thousands of offensive items on the net. What if you type in some innocent children's search and it brough up a porn and lewd picture of a child? Wouldn't that be banned? When it is offensive to the majority of the people and attacking the very integreity of human nature, it should be banned. It won't be perfect but hey, we all have to start somewhere.

    November 25, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  22. truth

    Free speech is going to be the death of America. There must be a lined drawn in the sand somewhere. Republicans are filling the media with lies, all in the name of free speech. America's children are being programed by self-destructive lyrics. Our president and first lady are being more disrespected than any president or first lady in history.
    These evil whites(Republicans) are doing exactly what they did during slavery, only on a more sophisticated level (institutional racism). This would be unheard of for Nancy Reagean, Laura Bush, or any other Republican woman. Thank God for Karma. And we wonder why America is hated around the world? It does not take a scientist to figure it out.

    November 25, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  23. Steve

    As a black man, I think google should leave the image right where it is. I don't care about the free speech argument. I just want people to see how the Republican/conservative constituents behave. You'll never hear any of the republican leaders disavow this kind of behavior. You never heard them say anything when the president was depicted as a witch doctor. Or during the campangin when they referred to him as Barack the magic negro. Or, when they showed him on a box that read Obama Flakes. I could go on. But, I think you get the point.. This is not an indivisual act. This is an act by the Republican/conservative constituentcy that will be acceptable to these right wing neocon knuckle draggers.

    November 25, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  24. David in San Diego

    Look–It's just a sign of the times. Economic distress, stupid lingering wars, a transformative election, and the like always stir up latent racism and ethnocentrism. We know the haters are out there. It's good that they expose themselves from time to time as a reminder. Ms. Obama will shrug it off, and we should too.

    November 25, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  25. truth

    Would Cnn write this story if it were about Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush or any other supreme white woman. They would not even allow space for comments, if they did. I've noticed how there is no space for comments when there is a story about a supreme woman with no color. Cnn I see straight through you.

    November 25, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
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