Nicole Campbell says Uber never threatened any journalists
It’s been the Week of Uber. You ready for a new one? Here’s an interesting new twist on the Uber story: everything was taken out of context and grossly sensationalized.
That’s the story according to another person who was at the same Uber dinner: Nicole Campbell, entrepreneur and former White House Fellow. Campbell’s version of events is much more tame and presents Emil Michael’s statements in a much softer light. It also casts BuzzFeed reporter Ben Smith in a much harsher light—that of a journalist who was angling for dirt.
Smith, who broke the story earlier this week, wrote of Emil Michael: “Over dinner, he outlined the notion of spending ‘a million dollars’ to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into ‘your personal lives, your families,’ and give the media a taste of its own medicine.”
That ominous tidbit about personal lives and families—that’s the part that Campbell says simply never happened.
The conversation between Michael and Smith started, Campbell said, when Smith “asked whether or not the CEO of Uber supported Obamacare. I didn't know he was a reporter at the time but it was clear that he was trying to change the tenor of an otherwise enjoyable dinner.” When Emil Michael asked Ben Smith why he was asking the question, Campbell says she overheard Smith say that he was hoping for a “libertarian answer.”
“At that point, I wanted to grab Emil. I kind of knew what Ben was up to,” wrote Campbell.
Campbell recounts the rest of the conversation between Emil Michael and Ben Smith as she overheard it.
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 $1 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.
Ben Smith tweeted in response to Campbell’s story: “Pretty amazed to see @HuffingtonPost publish something 1) falsely accusing me of making up comments Uber has already apologized for, and B) whining that I was ‘trying to change the tenor of an otherwise enjoyable dinner.’” He added: “What do people think reporters’ jobs are??”
Uber could not be reached for comment.