While at a dinner party on Friday, with several Journalists in attendance, the Senior Vice President of the ride-sharing service Uber, suggested the company spend $1 million hiring a team of researchers to “dig up dirt” on Journalists who criticized Uber, in an attempt to “give the media a taste of its own medicine.”
As previously reported, Uber, a ride-sharing service that allows users to find a ride by using an App on their smartphone, has received criticism from major businesses, and has had its drivers threatened to “stop driving or face arrest” in states such as Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Buzzfeed was the first to report the comments from Uber’s Vice President, Emil Michael, after one of its editors was invited to the dinner by Journalist Michael Wolff, “who later said that he had failed to communicate that the gathering would be off the record.”
During the dinner, Michael suggested that Uber should spend “a million dollars” hiring a team of top researchers and journalists to help Uber “fight back against the press” by looking into the personal lives and the families of journalists who criticized the company.
When asked about the ramifications from such an operation, Michael insisted, “Nobody would know it was us.”
According to Buzzfeed, the main critic Michael had in mind was Sarah Lacy, the editor of PandoDaily.
Lacy criticized Uber, and announced that she was deleting the company’s App, in an article she wrote in October. In the post, she responded to an ad campaign from Uber that promoted the pairing of riders in France with “Hot Chick” drivers.
“I still can’t believe that an office of Uber – a company valued at $18 billion and held up as a bastion of modern entrepreneurship – posted an ad that encouraged, played on, and celebrated treating women who may choose to drive cars to make extra money like hookers,” Lacy wrote.
According to Buzzfeed, Michael “expressed outrage at Lacy’s column and said that women are far more likely to get assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers,” and that because of her comments, Lacy “should be held personally responsible for any woman who followed her lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted.”
After Michael’s comments were made public, he made a statement saying that they were “borne out of frustration during an informal debate” over what he feels is “sensationalistic media coverage” of the company Uber.
Lacy responded to the comments with an article, arguing, “the First Amendment and rights of journalists do matter.”
“Companies shouldn’t be allowed to go to illegal lengths to defame and silence reporters,” wrote Lacy. “Professional women in this industry actually deserve respect.”
Lacy came back and updated her article, saying that shortly after she published it, Michael called her, and asked to speak to her “off the record.”
“I told Michael that I would not talk to him off the record,” wrote Lacy. “This is an issue of vital importance to our readers, Uber’s riders, journalists and women in the Valley, and I will not have a conversation I can’t share with them. He said goodbye and hung up.”
In addition to the phone call, Michael also reached out to Lacy with an email, and a Tweet:
While Lacy has yet to respond to Michael on Twitter, she did make a statement by retweeting several of the Tweets that were sent to her by users, sharing their support: