A senior executive at U.S. ride-sharing company Uber suggested that the company should spend a million dollars to hire a team of opposition researchers to "dig up dirt" on its critics in the media, BuzzFeed reported.
The comments, BuzzFeed said, came from Emil Michael, Uber's senior vice president for business, during a private dinner in New York last week. He later said he believed the conversation was off the record, according to the social news and entertainment website.
Over dinner, Michael outlined the notion of hiring a team for one million dollars that 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, according to the BuzzFeed article, written by Ben Smith, the site's editor-in-chief.
"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," Michael said in a statement.
Nairi Hourdajian, an Uber spokeswoman said: "We have not, do not and will not investigate journalists. Those remarks have no basis in the reality of our approach".
Companies such as Lyft, Sidecar and UberX, which is a part of black-car service Uber, allow passengers to summon paid rides using apps on their smartphones and have gained in popularity in dozens of U.S. cities over the past few years.
But they face opposition from taxi companies that argue the upstarts do not face the same stringent regulations as do traditional cabs, and insurance companies want ride-sharing drivers to carry more expensive insurance policies.