Month: November 2014

Holy shit

Holy shit — Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith has just posted an incredible scoop, revealing that an Uber executive boasted of a plan to launch a secret smear campaign against Pando’s Sarah Lacy in response to our critical coverage of the company.

[Senior vice president of business, Emil Michael] was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny.” She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service. “I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety,” she wrote.

At the dinner, Michael expressed outrage at Lacy’s column and said that women are far more likely to get assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers. He said that he thought Lacy should be held “personally responsible” for any woman who followed her lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted. Then he returned to the opposition research plan. Uber’s dirt-diggers, Michael said, could expose Lacy. They could, in particular, prove a particular and very specific claim about her personal life. Sarah and I are in the studio right now, hosting our PandoLIVE call-in show. We’re discussing the article live on air, and I’m sure Sarah will have a more formal response this evening.

For now, it’s worth remembering that Uber’s Travis Kalanick recently boasted that he would be treating his company more like a political campaign, including throwing mud at rivals. He also hired political strategist, and former senior Obama advisor, David Plouffe as “Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy”. While it’s not clear right now if Plouffe had any involvement in this latest scandal, Wikipedia tells us that he has a history of smearing those who disagree with his boss:

In 2013, in response to Congressman Darrell Issa’s accusations that the Obama administration knew about the IRS targeting of not-for-profit conservative groups for extra scrutiny, Plouffe tweeted: “Strong words from Mr Grand Theft Auto and suspected arsonist/insurance swindler. And loose ethically today” referring to two incidents in Issa’s past. In 1972, while a teenager, Issa was accused of stealing a Maserati sports car; the charges were later dropped. In 1982, a Cleveland warehouse belonging to Issa burned to the ground. The fire was ruled suspicious and Issa collected an insurance payout, but he was not charged with any crime.

More on this disgusting story when we get off the air.

Taibbi: “Commenting on Paul Carr is completely beneath my dignity” (But that doesn’t stop him)

Matt Taibbi, newly freed from Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, is back with a vengeance. Exhibit A: His remarkable Rolling Stone piece about JPMorgan Chase’s $9bn witness.

I say remarkable for two reasons: First, because it’s an aggressive return to form for Taibbi who effectively vanished from the universe for months after he was hired by Omidyar. And second, because Taibbi revealed that the piece was originally intended to be the launch splash for his now defunct Omidyar project, Racket.

To promote the article, Taibbi and whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann appeared on Huffington Post Live yesterday. Towards the end of the conversation, interviewer Alyona Minkovski asked Taibbi about his departure from First Look. And that’s when things got very weird.

Having spent twenty minutes talking about the importance of exposing what happens behind closed corporate doors at JP Morgan Chase, Taibbi suddenly transformed into a tight-lipped company man. “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t talk about [Omidyar] unfortunately,” said Taibbi, almost as if bound by a non-disclosure agreement. Minkowski pressed on, asking if he at least had a response to Glenn Greenwald’s version of events, published on the Intercept…

“I really shouldn’t comment… No matter what my feelings toward First Look Media, I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about my former employers.”

What. The. Hell?

Is this the same Matt Taibbi whose Rolling Stone editors have likened to Hunter S. Thompson, the gonzo journalist who never left a bridge unburned?

Is this the same Matt Taibbi who lectured Lara Logan on how journalism is supposed to work:

[Logan] is like pretty much every other “reputable” journalist in this country, in that she suffers from a profound confusion about who she’s supposed to be working for. I know this from my years covering presidential campaigns, where the same dynamic applies. Hey, assholes: you do not work for the people you’re covering! Jesus, is this concept that fucking hard?

…They don’t need your help, and you’re giving it to them anyway, because you just want to be part of the club so so badly. Disgustingly, that’s really what it comes down to. Most of these reporters just want to be inside the ropeline so badly, they want to be able to say they had that beer with Hillary Clinton in a bowling alley in Scranton or whatever, that it colors their whole worldview. God forbid some important person think you’re not playing for the right team! (Incidentally, Matt, if you ever need a refresher course on how a journalist is supposed to report on former employers, I’m fully qualified and my hourly rates are well within whatever you were paid to keep your mouth shut.)

Still, there was one subject on which Taibbi couldn’t stay silent a moment longer… me.

Around minute 24, Minkowski asked Taibbi about my article here on Pando, Everybody sucks, except Matt Taibbi. Specifically she invited him to respond to this quote:

Matt Taibbi, on the other hand, completely fails to understand that by taking a paycheck from a billionaire, and then actively working to prevent readers from knowing what that same billionaire is up to, in order to protect his job, makes him guilty of the most grotesque hypocrisy imaginable.

Looking not at all like a squirming child trying to avoid admitting to his mom that he’s shit his pants, Taibbi refused to take the bait.

“Commenting on Paul Carr is completely beneath my dignity,” he replied.

And then, showing the depthless dignity of a man who wears a newsie cap paid for by Pierre Omidyar, Tabbi went on…

“He’s absurd, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he’s been consistently wrong about everything he’s been reporting… and…um.. y’know… uh… that’s really all I can say.”

Well, not quite all. He also had something to say about my decision to expose his off-the-record lies here on Pando…

“I mean… [with an off-the-record conversation] you’re not supposed to say you talked to the person, but that’s ok, it’s not like it’s an outrage to my dignity, it’s not like I can’t handle it, but yeah, he’s ridiculous.”

Hopefully none of Taibbi’s HuffPost viewers bother to check what “consistently wrong” reporting Taibbi is referring to. Because if they did, they’d likely find the parts that made him so mad, published months before he quit First Look:

Of course, in the case of First Look, Omidyar is both sole investor and publisher. And apparently he’s just realized that, even with a $250 million dollar budget and a big pile of NSA leaked documents acquired along with Glenn Greenwald, creating a serious journalistic enterprise is hard.  A platform, on the other hand, is something Omidyar has built before and clearly believes he can build again. Someone else can take care of actually fixing American journalism and delivering on all the promises he made in his weirdly Pierre-centric launch video

[Taibbi] will have to find another outlet for his rightly celebrated take-downs of billionaires like the one who pays his salary.” In fairness, I did get one thing wrong: Even having found another outlet, Taibbi still has no intention of ever speaking ill of the eBay billionaire who, for the past few months at least, paid him so handsomely.

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