WTF: Uber's Senior VP Suggests Digging Up Dirt On Journalists Who Criticize The Company
According to a huge story by BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith, a senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should hire a team of “opposition researchers” to dig up dirt on journalists who cover Uber in a negative light.
Senior vice president Emil Michael, who has worked at Uber for more than a year, pitched the idea at a dinner at Manhattan’s Waverly Inn, with several New York influencers—including actor Ed Norton and publisher Arianna Huffington—in attendance. The dinner was hosted by Ian Osborne, a former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron and consultant to the company.
During dinner, Michael outlined the idea of spending “a million dollars” to hire four opposition researches and four journalists. Such a team, he said, could help Uber fight back against negative press. They’d dig into “your personal lives, your families,” he said.
Michael focused specifically on PandoDaily‘s Sarah Lacy, who recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny.” She wrote that she was done using Uber after a report that the company appeared the be working with a French escort service. “I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety,” Lacy said.
Michael was outraged by Lacy’s column, insisting that she should be held “personally responsible” for any woman who followed her lead in deleting Uber and then was sexually assaulted by a taxi driver.
Uber’s researchers, Michael said, could expose Lacy—proving a “particular and very specific claim about her personal life,” says the report.
When it was suggested that such a plan could be problematic for Uber, Michael responded: “Nobody would know it was us.”
Michael issued a statement to BuzzFeed through an Uber spokeswoman: “The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner — borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for — do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.”
Michael has not been fired by Uber.