A senior Uber executive, during a private dinner gathering, reportedly raised the idea of hiring opposition researchers to dig up dirt on journalists who have been critical of Uber, according to BuzzFeed News.
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BuzzFeed reports that Uber Senior Vice President Emil Michael discussed the possibility of spending “a million dollars” to hire a team of opposition researchers and journalists to dig up dirt on critics’ personal lives and families. Michael – who sits on a board that advises the Department of Defense -- reportedly singled out PandoDaily editor Sarah Lacy. In late October, Lacy accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny.”
“Women drive Ubers and ride in them. I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety,” Lacy wrote.
According to BuzzFeed, Michael says he made the comments in a conversation he believed was off the record.
In a statement provided to FOXBusiness.com, Uber backed away from Michael’s comments, emphasizing that the ride-sharing company does not do opposition research and has no plans to.
“We have not, do not and will not investigate journalists. Those remarks have no basis in the reality of our approach,” Uber wrote via email.
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The company also provided this statement from Emil Michael on the matter: “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.”
On Twitter, the Uber exec’s comments were soundly criticized by both techies and journalists alike:
As more time goes on, and more stories about execs’ behaviour emerge, it becomes increasingly ethically questionable to carry on using Uber.
— Elliot Jay Stocks (@elliotjaystocks) November 18, 2014
Increasingly clear that Uber gets a lot of its business practices from the mafia http://t.co/pSyicussWn
— Nick Wing (@nickpwing) November 18, 2014
Über mulls going thug on journos. http://t.co/3PYcAe2xum Worse the ppl say Uber is arrogant or worse it's true?
— david carr (@carr2n) November 18, 2014
And Lacy responded to the report in a post on PandoDaily, calling it a “horror” deserving of a wakeup call in Silicon Valley.
“[D]eep scary misogyny in a culture isn’t something that you hire a campaign manager to ‘message out’ of a founder, nor is it something you excuse as genius at work,” she wrote.
Uber is reportedly exploring the possibility of raising another $1 billion in financing, after raising a $1.2 billion round this summer. Uber said its pre-money valuation this summer was $17 billion.