Uber Exec Wants to Spy On Journalists

A senior executive at Uber – a private rental car service, came up with the outlandish plot to counteract bad public relations, not by solving problems but by making more.

Senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, made comments earlier this month during a conversation that he thought was considered off the record regarding how he would handle their media scandals in the future. After his company received a handful of negative reviews and criticisms in the media, Michael suggested that Uber hire a task force with the sole purpose of digging up dirt on the personal lives of reporters who criticize their company.

The conversation took place at a dinner at Manhattan’s Waverly Inn attended by some of New York’s most influential people. The dinner was hosted by the former advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron, Ian Osborne. Michael suggested that a task force of researchers and journalists be assembled to dig up dirt on the “personal lives” and “families” of reporters and leak the information to the media, at the cost of “a million dollars.”

Michael had one specific reporter in mind when he made the comments, a female journalist by the name of Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily. Lacy had recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny,” writing “I don’t now how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety.”

In a statement through Uber, Michael said that he regretted making the comments and that they didn’t reflect the views of himself or the company.

Only a few days later, actor Ashton Kutcher who also happens to be an investor in the company, drew criticisms on social media after supporting Michael’s claims.

“What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?” Kutcher tweeted to his nearly 17 million followers. He continued to write, “Questioning the source needs to happen…Always!”

Michael’s remarks come only shortly after the company launched an initiative to improve its relationship with the media earlier this month. The company has struggled with being depicted as having an insensitive and hyper-aggressive public persona, according to Buzzfeed.

Michael has since issued an apology.

“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.”

At no point, however, was it expressed that Uber has actually hired any researchers to carry out their plan.

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and FoxNews.com.
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