The senior vice president of Uber recently suggested that the private car service should hire a team of researchers to reveal damaging personal information about their critics in the media, Buzzfeed reported Monday.
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The executive, Emil Michael, made the remarks during a dinner conversation Friday at New York City’s Waverly Inn, which he later said he believed was off the record. Journalist Michael Wolff reportedly invited a BuzzFeed editor to the dinner, without communicating to his guest that the meeting would be off the record. The attendees included Arianna Huffington, publisher of The Huffington Post, and Ian Osborne, former adviser to the British prime minister.
According to BuzzFeed, Michael outlined his idea of spending a million dollars to hire four opposition researchers and four journalists to help Uber fight the press by investigating journalists’ backgrounds and personal lives.
“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 said in a statement emailed to msnbc by a member of Uber’s communications team.
The company has previously said it has rocky relationships with the news media, including PandoDaily editor Sarah Lacy, who has been a public critic of the company and its chief executive, Travis Kalanick. Last month, Lacy wrote a column about what she called a culture of “outrageous sexism” at Uber. She accused the company’s public relations team of discrediting women passengers who have claimed Uber drivers attacked them by blaming their intoxication or provocative dress.
Michael allegedly expressed outrage toward Lacy’s column in his remarks at the dinner last week, saying that women are more likely to be assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers. On Tuesday, Kalanick tweeted an apology to Lacy for Michael’s comments.
“We have not, do not and will not investigate journalists. Those remarks have no basis in the reality of our approach,” Uber said in a statement to msnbc. The mobile application-based company, which connects drivers with people in search of a ride, has a stock market valuation of as much as $18 billion.