Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, is known for controversial comments that hint towards the extreme. During his re-election campaign this year, which he narrowly won, King drew fire for various comments, as well as his endorsements of far-right political figures in other countries and spreading of conspiracy theories about financier George Soros.
But on Tuesday, King was part of a lighter and more common story in Washington: That of a lawmaker who, during a public hearing, shows an embarrassing misunderstanding of modern technology.
Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, testified on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee. Pichai was asked a wide variety of questions on many different topics, including privacy, the company’s relationship with China, and data collection. Some Republican members of Congress also asked Pichai about political bias in the company’s search results, as did one Democrat (Rep. Ted Lieu of California) who alleged that searches actually favor conservatives. And Rep. Jamie Raskin (a Democrat from Maryland) asked Pichai about the serving of extremist videos on Google-owned YouTube.
But when it was King’s turn, he had other questions to ask.
“I have a 7-year-old granddaughter who picked up her phone during the election, and she’s playing a little game, the kind of game a kid would play,” King asked, as reported by the Hill. “And up on there pops a picture of her grandfather. And I’m not going to say into the record what kind of language was used around that picture of her grandfather, but I’d ask you: how does that show up on a 7-year-old’s iPhone, who’s playing a kid’s game?”
“Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company,” Pichai replied. Indeed, the iPhone is an Apple product, while Google established the Android operating system, which runs on devices created by several different manufacturers.
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 11, 2018
“It might have been an Android,” King said, as he held up what looked like an iPhone. “It was a hand-me-down of some kind.”
It’s unclear what kids game, available on either platform, would have served the granddaughter a picture of Steve King or an unflattering headline about him. Pichai speculated that King’s granddaughter may have been using one application when a notification popped up from another.
The hearing was titled “Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use, and Filtering Practices.” Surprise faces at the hearing included former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.