It seems that for every story about how much people love Uber, there's another story about something awful that Uber has done or that its executives said. Here's the latest one: according to BuzzFeed, Uber's senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, floated the idea of spending $1 million to hire Uber's own team of researchers and journalists who would surreptitiously fight back against reporters by digging up dirt on their personal lives if they write bad stories about the company.
Uber's exec singled out one journalist in particular
In particular, Michael is reported to have singled out PandoDaily editor-in-chief Sarah Lacy, suggesting that he already knew something about her and could have his team of journalists confirm it. He's also reported to have said that Lacy, who previously wrote about removing Uber from her phone because of the company's "asshole culture," should be held "personally responsible" for every woman who deletes Uber from their phone and then gets sexually assaulted by a taxi driver, arguing that assault is more likely from a standard taxi driver.
Uber confirmed the incident in a statement to The Verge. "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 says. "They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them." Michael is also reported to have believed he was making the comments during an off-the-record conversation, though BuzzFeed disputes that this was the case.
An Uber spokesperson also says that Michael's remarks do not reflect the company's plans. "We have not, do not, and will not investigate journalists," the company says. "Those remarks have no basis in the reality of our approach." An Uber spokesperson also tells BuzzFeed that it does not consider Lacy to be responsible for sexual assaults.
Lacy responded to Michael's remarks on her site, writing, "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."
Uber has been subject to a long string of bad press because of its own actions. The Verge reported on the tactics that Uber is using to sabotage Lyft and the questionable jobs that its offering to veterans. Uber also recently offered a promotion in France that allowed passengers to request that a "hot chick" drive them around. This is yet another wild misstep that could have been avoided, but instead it speaks to the bad company culture that story after story has spoken to inside of Uber.