After it was revealed that a top Uber executive bragged about potentially hiring a team to smear its critics in the media, the company quickly tried to apologize and distance itself. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's 14-part statement on Twitter said that the the remarks "were terrible and do not represent the company." But now high-profile Uber investor, actor Ashton Kutcher, wonders what was so wrong about embarrassing journalists?
Buzzfeed's editor-in-chief Ben Smith attended a dinner where Uber SVP of business Emil Michael made off-hand remarks about how he thought about spending $1 million to hire a group of opposition researchers and journalists to find incriminating details about the privates lives of journalists who have covered (from Michael's POV) Uber unfairly.
Smith wrote, "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... Uber’s dirt-diggers, Michael said, could expose Lacy. They could, in particular, prove a particular and very specific claim about her personal life."
Kutcher, the same person who Tweeted that it was terrible for Penn State to fire Joe Paterno over the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, offered his two cents:
I believe we live in a day were the first word has become "the word"— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
Rumors span the globe before anyone has an opportunity to defend them selves.— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
Everyone is guilty and then tasked to defend themselves publicly.— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
Questioning the source needs to happen... Always!— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
So as long as journalist are interested and willing to print half truths as facts... Yes we should question the source.— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
To be clear I speak for my self not @Uber— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
This should be fun... Here comes the part where journalist explain why they should be exempt from ridicule and judgement and probing...— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
Obviously Kutcher has never been on the Internet, where journalists who get the facts wrong are humiliated on a minute-by-minute basis. Journalists genuinely trying to uncover truths—for instance something about the culture of a company that is trying to dominate an industry—strive to get things right. Kutcher's experience is more with celebrity journalism, which is a whole other can of worms, but Silicon Valley's media scene is much more critical and competitive to get the facts right and first. And, yes, journalists do investigate each other, but it's pretty unheard of a $17 billion company trying to wreck the lives of critics who happen to question their marketing spin.
So, stick to acting, Kelso.
UPDATE: Now he's Tweeted this:
U r all right and I'm on the wrong side of this ultimately. I just wish journalists were held to the same standards as public figures.— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
How bored and idle is this guy?