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.