SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A news website reported on Monday that an senior executive for Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring an opposition research team to find embarrassing information on media critics and specifically mentioned spreading details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company.
Senior Vice President Emil Michael for the San Francisco-based ridesharing service, made the comments during a conversation he later said he believed was off the record, according to the report in BuzzFeed News.
In a statement through Uber on Monday evening, Michael said he regretted the comments and that they didn’t reflect his or the company’s views.
Michael proposed the idea at a dinner Friday at Manhattan’s Waverly Inn attended by an influential New York crowd.
An unnamed BuzzFeed editor who was invited to the dinner said he was never told at the gathering would be off the record.
During the dinner, Michael outlined the idea of spending “a million dollars” to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists, according to the report.
The team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press by looking into “your personal lives, your families,” to give the media “a taste of its own medicine.”
Michael also focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily.
Lacy had recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny” and wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service.
Lacy responded in a blog that “forces more powerful than me in the Valley– or even DC– have to see this latest horror as a wakeup call.”
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While Michael never suggested that Uber had actually hired opposition researchers, or had any plans to, he said the company would be justified to do so.
During the conversation, someone who was unnamed responded that the plan could be a problem for the company. But Michael said that “no one would know it was us.”
Michael has since apologized repeatedly to both Lacy and Uber users at large, as has CEO Travis Kalanick.
Meanwhile, blowback on the Internet has been strong with many on Twitter stating that they would delete the ridesharing app from their smartphones.
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