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Uber Senior Executive Outlines Plan to Expose Journalists’ Personal Lives

Senior executive Emil Michael backed away from comments, which he thought were off the record, after BuzzFeed News posted them

Uber senior vice president for business Emil Michael suggested that his company should explore digging up dirt on members of the media, and especially those who are critical of the vehicles-for-hire service, according to BuzzFeed News.

Michael made the alleged comments at a dinner Friday night attended by several members of the media, including a BuzzFeed editor. Journalist Michael Wolff, who had invited the BuzzFeed editor, purportedly neglected to state that the dinner was off the record.

The executive, who joined Uber from Klout, outlined a plan that would see the company spend “a million dollars” to hire a team to fight back against the press, BuzzFeed reports, saying he saw it as a defensive move against a media landscape that was targeting Uber.

He was also gunning for one journalist in particular, according to BuzzFeed: PandoDaily’s Sarah Lacy. She recently accused the company of “sexism and misogyny” and indicated she would be deleting her Uber account in a scathing essay. That post has been tweeted 1,553 times as of this writing.

At the dinner, BuzzFeed says Michael suggested not only that this secret team of “four top opposition researchers and four journalists” should target and expose personal details about Lacy, but also that she should be held “personally responsible” for any woman who is sexually assaulted by a taxi driver, if they followed her lead and deleted their own Uber accounts.

Shortly after the dinner, Michael apologized for his comments, which he believed were off the record, in a statement.

“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,” he said.

Uber spokeswoman Nairi Hourdajian rejected each of Michael’s suggestions individually, including those about creating an opposition research team, targeting Lacy’s personal life and blaming her for sexual assault. She said that Uber has strict policies barring executives from looking at the travel logs of journalists who use the service.