Google-funded think tank fires back over claims that Google influenced an employee’s termination

Today the public policy think tank New America found itself under fire over allegations that it fired a scholar who wrote a critical post about Google, which just happens to be one of the organization’s big donors. According to a statement from the think tank, “this claim is absolutely false.”

The story goes like this according to a New York Times report from this morning: Barry Lynn, a now-former New America employee, published a statement from New America that praised the EU for imposing an antitrust penalty on Google. Lynn’s statement, reportedly, didn’t sit well with Eric Schmidt, or with others at the organization. Ultimately, Lynn was fired.

The Times cites a few emails. One, sent to Lynn from New America president Anne-Marie Slaughter, details reasons for Lynn’s termination, saying it had nothing to do with the content of his work. In it, she said the scholar was “imperiling the institution as a whole.” In an earlier email sent about a conference Lynn was organizing–which Google was concerned about–Slaughter wrote: “We are in the process of trying to expand our relationship with Google on some absolutely key points … just THINK about how you are imperiling the funding for others.”

In its response, New America makes no mention of those emails, but it denies the report’s implication that Lynn was fired as a result of pressure from Google:

For the past two months, we have been working with Barry Lynn to spin out Open Markets as an independent program, as we have done with other programs, to preserve his leadership, keep the program together, and maintain a strong relationship with New America. As I reiterated to him in June, his repeated refusal to adhere to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality meant that we could no longer work together as part of the same institution. I continued, however, to seek a cooperative solution with Barry; unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful.

Today, we made the difficult decision to terminate Barry Lynn. However, we are proud of the work Open Markets has done under his leadership and with the contributions of many others. We remain committed to continuing work on an open and competitive economy.

You can read the full rebuttal here.