Sundar's Silence: The thorny factors behind the Google CEO's Trump meeting and his deafening quiet about it (GOOG, GOOGL)


Sundar Pichai

  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai met with President Trump on Wednesday, but instead of giving his take on how the conversation went, the chief exec remained silent. 
  • Meanwhile, the president didn’t hold back, saying that Google is “totally committed to the U.S. military, not the Chinese Military.” 
  • But why would Pichai not say a word coming out of his meeting with Trump? 
  • There could be a number of reasons, though one thing’s for sure — his decision follows a trend of other tech execs making a similar decision to remain quiet. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai met with President Trump on Wednesday, but anyone who follows the tech mogul would never have known it. Instead of proclaiming the value of his tete-a-tete with the POTUS, Pichai kept his lips sealed and his Twitter feed silent.

Meanwhile, the president didn’t hold back.

Trump tweeted, saying that Google is “totally committed to the U.S. military, not the Chinese Military” and that the two “discussed political fairness and various things that Google can do for our Country.” 

Trump also mistakenly called Pichai the “President of Google,” rather than using his correct title, CEO. 

But why would Pichai not say a word coming out of his meeting with Trump — especially after the president had made damning accusations about Google just weeks prior?

Read more: Trump says Google CEO Sundar Pichai told him he is ‘totally committed to the U.S. military’

Communications lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Sarah Zimmerman, told Business Insider there could be a number of reasons for holding back. 

For one, Pichai could have been using the meeting to “gain information,” she said, while Trump wanted to “gain a win” and show the public that Google was willing to work with his administration. 

Questions have surrounded Google’s commitment to working with the US government following the company’s decision last year not to renew its contract with the Pentagon. That decision came amid intense internal backlash at Google from employees who condemned the military work.

Zimmerman also said Pichai’s silence could be a sign that the chief exec didn’t want to align himself publicly with the president. 

“Because Google’s work is so broad, beyond just search, there could be business reasons for not making clear political statements and political affiliations,” she said. “But we can’t be sure until we see how different projects pan out in the future and look back at what they might have been discussing during the meeting.”

A Google spokesperson declined Business Insider’s request for more information about the meeting.

On Wednesday, the company did issue an official statement, saying: “We were pleased to have productive conversations with the President about investing in the future of the American workforce, the growth of emerging technologies and our ongoing commitment to working with the U.S. government.”

As for the reason behind Pichai’s trip to Washington in the first place, a source familiar with the matter told Business Insider that it was a result of his commitment to engage more in the nation’s capital following his testimony before Congress last December. The source said Pichai had held over a dozen meetings with government officials during his trip and has been accompanied by Google’s new head of government relations, Karan Bhatia. 

But will we ever get a comment from Pichai himself about his meeting with Trump? It’s not likely.

Silence, it seems, is the trend after high-powered tech execs meet with the president. 

Trump Cook Nadella Bezos

At the now famous roundtable at the White House with business leaders back in 2017 where no exec seemed happyApple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt all stayed mum after the meeting.

Instead, on that day, Cook tweeted about visiting the disabled veterans monument, while Schmidt tweeted about a new, useful feature on Google Maps (perhaps one he used while on his way to the White House). Bezoes was quiet that day on Twitter, but five days later, he tweeted about having a “terrific meeting” with the Prime Minister of India. 

In early March, Cook broke the trend and actually acknowledged his most recent meeting with Trump — albeit by poking fun at the president’s widely-noted slip up and changing his name on Twitter to “Tim Apple.” 

SEE ALSO: Chronicle, an Alphabet moonshot, says it’s ‘a completely separate company’ from Google — but it runs on Google’s in-house tech, not its commercial Google Cloud

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