An attendee from last week’s notorious Uber dinner party has spoken out about what happened that night.
In case you missed it, Uber held a dinner, inviting guests like Arianna Huffington, Edward Norton, and BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith. At the dinner, Uber’s SVP of business, Emil Michael, told Smith about how his company could hire a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on journalists critical of the company.
Michael specifically mentioned PandoDaily’s founder and editor-in-chief Sarah Lacy, who had been critical of the company in the past. Smith reported the news on Monday, and it spread like wildfire.
Nicole Campbell, an entrepreneur, was also at that dinner. The way she tells it, the conversation that took place between Michael and Smith wasn’t exactly what Smith reported. She says Smith “sensationalized” Michael’s comments.
It’s worth noting Campbell is a friend of Michael, and the two served as White House Fellows together.
On Huffington Post, Campbell writes:
Emil was pushing Ben to answer why it was OK for journalists to publish false stories or attack a businessperson’s personal life. Ben was quiet. It was a pretty normal conversation about hypotheticals. There was no malice or yelling or fighting. It was a chat between the two of them that I happened to overhear. The last comment that I heard was when Emil hypothesized about creating a coalition for responsible journalism. Ben said that would likely fail because companies have no expertise in journalism. Emil flippantly said he could hire professional journalists for $US1 million to get the expertise to make sure that they could respond when negative articles come out.
I heard a mention of a Sarah Lacy and overheard Emil say that he felt terrible that by writing an article, Sarah had actually suggested that people choose less safe alternatives based on a charge of sexism that was really a personal attack on the CEO with no basis in fact. Emil then said that Sarah wouldn’t like it if someone wrote false things about her or published an article that was factually wrong because we all have done things in our private lives we are not proud of. There was no anti-feminist sentiment, no attacking families, no attacking children, no anger, no threats against anyone, no action plan. Nothing. It was clear to me that this was all a vague, civilized conversation. I am a woman and I am sensitive to any kind of talk like that.