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Fired Google employee James Damore sidestepped questions on his ties to the alt-right

Asked by CNBC, he stressed he doesn’t want to hurt Google.

Google Updates Its Logo Justin Sullivan / Getty

Some of the most prominent voices on the alt-right have found a new hero in James Damore, the fired Google employee who attributed the lack of women in tech to “biological” differences between genders.

Even as Damore appears to work with some of the movement’s leaders, he sought to distance himself from their efforts Monday.

Asked about his affiliation with the alt-right and their planned protest of Google, Damore told CNBC: “I support Google, and I really do want Google to improve, so I don’t support efforts to try to hurt Google directly. I think that Google’s culture really does need to change if it wants to do what’s best for both its employees and its users, though.”

Pressed again as to whether he’s involved in those plans, Damore merely replied: “No, not really.”

Damore’s infamous so-called diversity memo has sent shockwaves throughout Silicon Valley, where women historically have been underrepresented at top tech companies. His comments — suggesting that women are prone to “neuroticism,” which explains their low participation in the tech workforce — ultimately led to his firing.

“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” said Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google, in a note to staff explaining the decision.

In the days after his firing, though, Damore has worked with Peter Duke, a photographer known for his affiliation with the biggest names in the alt-right universe, including online provocateur Chuck Johnson. Duke took the “Goolag” photo that since has become the profile image for Damore’s fast-growing Twitter presence.

The conspiracy-theory-minded Mike Cernovich, meanwhile, has tweeted in defense of Damore, while Johnson himself set up a crowdfunding portal for the fired Google employee. So far, it has raised more than $47,000.

For his part, Damore has pledged legal action in response to his firing: Last Monday, he filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Asked about it by CNBC, however, Damore acknowledged he is “pursuing legal remedies at the moment” — but didn’t have any details.

“I’m still exploring that,” Damore said, then laughed.

But Damore said he did not believe Pichai should be fired. He did say the executive may have “mishandled this situation.”

Damore has been on a media tour in an attempt to fight back criticism. It began with an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal on Friday, arguing his memo was a “well-researched, good-faith argument” — all the while accusing Google of becoming an “ideological echo chamber.”

Over the weekend, Damore defended himself on Reddit. He charged that reporters had mischaracterized his writing by removing citations and accusing him of harboring “anti-diversity/misogynist” views. And Damore stressed he is not conservative, but rather “a centrist,” adding he never argued women are “less capable engineers.”

In doing so, however, Damore also took aim at the likes of Girls Who Code, which seeks to help women advance in science, tech, engineering and math fields.

Asked about the group, he said he wasn’t sure — but offered a “general critique” of such programs for emphasizing a “‘women are victims’ narrative” while increasing “intergroup conflict.”

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