Government search engines link prominently to Kerry critics
By Elizabeth Wolfe, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Searching for "Kerry" on the Department of Homeland Security's Web site Tuesday afternoon turned up an unexpected top hit: a Republican attack on the Democratic presidential candidate.
A similar search on the Web site of the Department of Health and Human Services brought up the same link at the top — a news release from conservative Rep. C.L. Butch Otter, R-Idaho, that said a John Kerry administration "would embolden environmental extremists to press an aggressive agenda of restricting access and responsible use of public lands."
The statement is posted on the Web site of the House Republican Conference,www.gop.gov.
Made aware by The Associated Press of the political content that appears through his agency's search engine, HHS spokesman Bill Hall was not amused.
"That is not supposed to be there and we are quite upset," Hall said.
Both agencies pointed the finger at the government's official Web portal,Firstgov.gov, which maintains their search engines.
The second and third picks on the "Kerry" HHS search — his testimony before a Senate panel in 1999 and his own Senate site — should also not be there, Hall said, since the pages do not come from the HHS family of agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration. He said HHS had provided Firstgov.gov a list of URLs to include and that Senate Web sites should not be among them.
Firstgov.gov, for its part, blamed the error on a technical glitch.
"We thank the AP for pointing out this unintended result and are working to have it corrected by tomorrow," said Viki Reath, spokeswoman for the General Services Association, which administers Firstgov.gov.
By 5:30 p.m. Tuesday the links in question no longer appeared on the HHS and DHS sites.