Pando

David Plouffe: Being caught threatening a journalist was "the most devastating thing imaginable" for Uber execs

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on September 9, 2015

From The Travis Shrugged Desk

A lot of chatter yesterday about this major profile of Travis Kalanick, in which the Uber founder -- with a little help from Fast Company -- launches his -- second? third? attempt at rebooting his reputation.

Much of the commentary has focussed on Kalanick's amusing claim that --Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged obsessions notwithstanding -- he had never even heard of libertarianism until, uh, some journalist or other tried to paint him as one. 

"I didn’t even know what a libertarian was," he says. "But it just sort of gets repeated enough times that it becomes real."

Uh huh. 

For me, though, the most stunning quote came not from poor misunderstood Travis but from his "consigliere," former Obama staffer David Plouffe who talked for the first time about the scandal that ensued after Uber executive Emil Michael threatened to "go after" the family of Pando editor in chief Sarah Lacy. 

"It seemed like the most devastating thing imaginable, but we ended up being stronger for it," Plouffe says. "Everyone understood that we are a really big, interesting company under the spotlight." 

You read that right. Having a senior exec get caught threatening the family of a journalist, and having to answer awkward questions about why you didn't fire him, is the most devastating thing that David Plouffe and Uber can imagine

I guess that's just one way in which they differ from me, you and everyone else who isn't a fucking sociopath. 

Because most of us can imagine plenty of things more devastating than having to explain to the press and users why your colleague threatened a million dollar smear campaign against a journalist. Like, for example, discovering that you work for a company that would threaten journalists and their families in order to silence critics. 

I'm sure Emil Michael's plot being exposed was a real downer for Plouffe and co -- believe me, it was no walk in the park for Sarah and her kids either -- but I know Sarah would be quick to agree that even what she went through was still pretty far from the most devastating thing imaginable. 

Here's something infinitely more devastating to imagine: The ordeal suffered by any of the growing number of women around the world who have reported being raped or assaulted by Uber drivers. Perhaps Plouffe and his colleagues simply can't allow themselves to imagine such a thing might happen. Which is bitterly ironic, given it was Sarah's reporting on those assaults that led Uber to target her in the first place. 

It'd be interesting to hear what any of those women have to say about Plouffe's comments. Unfortunately -- after all of Kalanick's investors, employees and pals had lined up to tell their stories about Travis "The Wolf" Kalanick -- there was no space left in Fast Company's Uber profile to squeeze in a single word from any of the company's actual victims.