TECH
11/18/2014 04:14 pm ET Updated Nov 18, 2014

Uber CEO Apologizes For Exec's 'Terrible' Suggestion That The Company Investigate Journalists

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick apologized Tuesday on Twitter for explosive comments a senior executive at his firm made over the weekend.

As BuzzFeed first reported Monday, Uber Vice President Emil Michael said at a dinner in New York on Friday that he wanted to spend $1 million to hire a team to research and fight back against journalists who have written negative stories about Uber. They could do this, he said, by investigating journalists' personal lives and families, BuzzFeed reported.

Michael specifically criticized one journalist -- Sarah Lacy, the editor-in-chief of tech site Pando Daily, according to BuzzFeed. Lacy recently wrote a column calling out Uber for sexism and said she had deleted the app from her phone. At the dinner, according to an article by BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, Michael "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."

The dinner was hosted by Ian Osborne, a consultant to Uber who is a former adviser to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. According to BuzzFeed, actor Edward Norton, Arianna Huffington and USA Today columnist Michael Wolff were in attendance.

Wolff invited Smith to the dinner as his guest. However, he did not tell Smith that the conversation was off the record, meaning journalists agreed not to report on the event. "My fault," Wolff tweeted.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday afternoon, Kalanick said he was sorry. "Emil's comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company," he tweeted. The comments "were a departure from our values and ideals." Kalanick promised that the company would do better at communicating "positive stories" to the public -- for one, by sharing inspiring stories about their drivers.

"I believe that folks who make mistakes can learn from them -- myself included," Kalanick tweeted.

In his 13th tweet, he apologized to Lacy: "13/ and last, I want to apologize to @sarahcuda"

Kalanick's tweets follow a personal apology from Michael and a statement from Uber emphasizing that they had no policy of retaliation toward journalists. "We have not, do not and will not investigate journalists. Those remarks have no basis in the reality of our approach," the company said.

The BuzzFeed story set off a storm of criticism earlier in the day, with some journalists calling on people to delete their Uber apps.

Lacy published a lengthy response on Pando Daily, calling for serious action from Uber. Lacy said she was reaching out to the company's more prominent investors to get them to pressure Kalanick take to action. In a separate interview with Re/code, Lacy said that Michael should be fired.

Michael put out a public statement of apology on Monday:

The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner – borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for – do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.

You can read all of Kalanick's tweets below:

CORRECTION: Ben Smith was incorrectly identified in an earlier version of this story. He is BuzzFeed's editor-in-chief.

CONVERSATIONS