Uber CEO in Damage Control Mode After Executive's "Terrible" Anti-Media Comments

Travis Kalanick - H 2014
AP Images

Travis Kalanick - H 2014

But Travis Kalanick hasn't fired anyone yet

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick took to Twitter Tuesday to apologize for comments made by one of the transportation startup's top executives. 

According to BuzzFeed News, Uber's Emil Michael was at a dinner in New York on Nov. 14 where he detailed a plan to spend "a million dollars" to hire a team that would help it fight bad press. Michael reportedly said Uber would be justified in looking into the personal lives and families of journalists in order to strike back. The executive apparently believed the dinner was an off-the-record event, though BuzzFeed said it was never told not to report on the dinner.

Michael reportedly focused on Sarah Lacy, the editor of tech news site PandoDaily who called the company sexist and criticized it for fostering an anti-female culture. Reportedly claiming that women are more likely to be assaulted if they use cabs rather than Uber, Michael is quoted as saying Lacy would be "personally responsible" if women deleted the Uber app at her suggestion. 

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Kalanick responded to the controversy with a stream of 13 tweets, calling Michael's comments "terrible" and saying they "showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals." The Uber founder also apologized to Lacy.

But Kalanick did not fire the senior vice president of business, despite calls for his ousting on Twitter. Instead, Kalanick said that he believes "that folks who make mistakes can learn from them — myself included. And that also goes for Emil."

Lacy posted a response to Michael's comments. "Let me also remind you: This is a company you trust with your personal safety every single time you use it," she wrote on PandoDaily. "Let me also remind you: The executive in question has not been fired."

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She also published a letter of apology Michael sent to her. "I wanted to apologize to you directly — I am sorry," he wrote. "I was at an event and was venting, but what I said was never intended to describe actions that would ever be undertaken by me or my company toward you or anyone else. I was definitively wrong and I feel terrible about any distress I have caused you. Again, I am sorry."

This is the latest in a string of controversies for the popular app, which has a number of high-profile investors including Menlo Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Jeff Bezos and Troy Carter. Several outlets reported in August that Uber was attempting to sabotage rival Lyft, and the company has also come under fire for endangering riders. In June a driver allegedly kidnapped a Los Angeles woman.