Car hire upstart Uber has apologized after a top exec suggested hiring investigators to expose the personal lives of its critics.
Senior veep of business Emil Michael said at a private dinner in New York City that Uber could blow "a million dollars" assembling a crack team of gumshoes and journalists to find dirt on the startup's numerous detractors in the press.
The private dicks would then spread whispers and stories to smear the company's enemies, Michael told the room, according to a BuzzFeed editor who was present.
One reporter, Pando.com's Sarah Lacy, in particular was singled out by Michael. This is disappointing on many levels – the pettiness, for one thing, but also because The Register is far more rude about Uber than Pando:
- Super Cali so litigious, Uber is the focus. Even German judges say it's something quite atrocious
- Super Cali goes ballistic, Uber Pool is bogus
- Uber alles-holes, claims lawsuit: Taxi biz sued by blind passengers
- Now Uber takes EVERYONE for a ride
- Uber cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
- Uber and Lyft sitting in a tree, 'c-a-n-c-e-l-l-i-n-g each other's rides'
And so on and so forth.
San Francisco-headquartered Uber has today thrown itself into reverse gear: it issued an apology from Michael, who said the comments "do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach." Uber also noted that the dinner date was "off the record."
To clarify, "off the record" means "don't quote me on that" not "don't write that down." And in any case, BuzzFeed said it was not aware of the off-the-record nature of the nosh night, and did not agree to such conditions at the door.
Dealing with pushy or intimidating PRs and execs comes with the territory of being a journalist; if you're not causing trouble, you're not doing it right.
PR agencies keep files on hacks – who's been naughty and who's been nice, etc – but threatening to probe into reporters' private lives is another level. It's ethically bankrupt, and legally dicey depending on the methods used to obtain the sensitive information.
What's most damning for Uber in all of this, is that Michael's comments came as absolutely no surprise to us. ®