Friend Of Uber Exec Says He Only ‘Flippantly’ Threatened To Smear Journalists

Yet another person who attended the now-infamous private Uber dinner last week in Manhattan came forward Friday to say that she believes Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith “sensationalized” a senior company executive’s suggestion to hire researchers to smear journalists.

“I am upset that Ben sensationalized what happened at that dinner. His account was not fair and the coverage about this whole incident has been ridiculous,” Nicole Campbell wrote in a blog post at the Huffington Post.

Smith reported Monday that Uber executive Emil Michael suggested the company hire opposition researchers to dig up information on the personal lives of journalists who criticized Uber.

Campbell, who describes herself as a friend of Michael since they both served as White House Fellows during the first year of the Obama administration, said Michael made the comment to Smith privately and not to the attendees in the room as a whole. That’s in line with the account of what happened at the dinner laid out by media columnist Michael Wolff, who brought Smith to the event as his guest and later insinuated that the Buzzfeed editor-in-chief wrote his report to benefit Uber’s competition.

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“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,” Campbell, who describes her profession as “entrepreneur,” wrote.

As for Smith’s report that Michael singled out PandoDaily editor Sarah Lacy as one of the journalists who needs a taste of her own medicine, here’s how Campbell interpreted that exchange:

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.

After Michael’s comments became public, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the remarks were “terrible” and showed “a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals.”

Smith responded to Campbell’s post Friday afternoon on Twitter:

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