Uber exec suggests investigating critical journalists
MANILA, Philippines – Uber has received criticism following an offhand remark by its Senior Vice President for Business Emil Michael that they can spend $1 million to dig up dirt on journalists who are critical of the company.
Buzzfeed reports that during a dinner on Friday, November 14, Michael thought about “spending ‘a million dollars’ to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists” to “fight back against the press” by investigating journalists’ personal lives and families.
Michael reportedly cited one target in particular – Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily, who has written some unfavorable pieces on Uber.
Michael did not suggest that the company actually did this snooping or planned to, but presented it as a supposedly sensible idea that the company should pursue.
An Uber spokeswoman later released a comment from Michael: "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.”
Lacy denounced Michael's statements in a column, saying, "Uber’s dangerous escalation of behavior has just had its whistleblower moment, and tellingly, the whistleblower wasn’t a staffer with a conscience, it was an executive boasting about the proposed plan. It’s gone so far, that there are those in the company who don’t even realize this is something you try to cover up.”
Irene Koehler, a social media strategy consultant and public speaker, also took screenshots of an apology from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
Kalanick also apologized for Michael’s remarks, saying that Michael’s remarks “showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals.”
As of this writing, Emil Michael remains in his position, with Kalanick noting in his Twitter apology that he believes “folks who make mistakes can learn from them – myself included and that also goes for Emil.”