A top executive at Uber on Tuesday apologized for suggesting the ride-sharing company should hire opposition researchers to target journalists.
Emil Michael, a senior vice president at the company, discussed the idea of going after reporters during a dinner that was attended by a BuzzFeed editor. Michael specifically mentioned going after a writer at PandoDaily who has been one of the company’s most vocal media critics.
"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," Michael said in a statement to BuzzFeed.
"They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.”
A spokeswoman added that the company has policies that prevent it from looking at the travel logs of journalists.
Travis Kalanick, the CEO of the popular ride-sharing app, disavowed Michael’s remarks on Twitter.
“Emil’s comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company,” Kalanick wrote.
“His remarks showed a lack of leadership, lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals.”
Kalanick said the company has no plans to implement Michael’s suggestions.
During the dinner, Michael talked about spending “a million dollars” to hire a team of eight people who would look into the “personal lives” and families of journalists who wrote negative stories about the company.
He specifically mentioned the work of Sarah Lacy, an editor at PandoDaily, who said in a recent article that the company doesn’t “prioritize [women’s] safety,” linking to a report about a kidnapping allegation against an Uber driver. Lacy said she deleted her Uber app over what she believed to be a lack of respect for women's safety and a culture of sexism at the company.
Michael slammed Lacy’s allegations at the dinner, according to BuzzFeed. He said that taxi drivers are more dangerous to women than Uber drivers and that she should be “personally responsible” for any woman who was sexually assaulted after deleting Uber.
Lacy responded to the story with a new post, where she called for Uber’s investors to publicly state whether they’ll support the company after the most recent report.
Uber has faced its share of bad press since its fast start. The Verge reported on the company’s plan to squeeze out its main competitor, Lyft, by flooding it with fraudulent demands.
The company responded in a blog post that it would “never use marketing tactics that prevent a [competitor’s] driver from making their living –and that includes never intentionally canceling rides.”