In a 13-tweet “tweetstorm” this afternoon, Travis Kalanick, head of the car service Uber, appeared to issue an apology. It was anything but.
As BuzzFeed reported, Emil Michael, Uber’s VP of business development, had suggested at a dinner party that the company should hire a team to dig up dirt on journalists who criticize it, and threatened to reveal something in particular about Sarah Lacy, the editor of tech site PandoDaily.
Pumped out as a stream, Kalanick’s tweets have a certain breast-beating, apologetic rhythm, but when compressed into a block of text (thanks, Recode, for saving us that bit of trouble) they acquire a different flavor:
Emil’s comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company. His remarks showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals. His duties here at Uber do not involve communications strategy or plans and are not representative in any way of the company approach.
Instead, we should lead by inspiring our riders, our drivers and the public at large. We should tell the stories of progress and appeal to people’s hearts and minds. We must be open and vulnerable enough to show people the positive principles that are the core of Uber’s culture. We must tell the stories of progress Uber has brought to cities and show the our [sic] constituents that we are principled and mean well.
The burden is on us to show that, and until Emil’s comments we felt we were making positive steps along those lines. But I will personally commit to our riders, partners and the public that we are up to the challenge. We are up to the challenge to show that Uber is and will continue to be a positive member of the community. And furthermore, I will do everything in my power towards the goal of earning that trust. I believe that folks who make mistakes can learn from them — myself included. And that also goes for Emil.
There is a 14th tweet—”13/ and last, I want to apologize to @sarahcuda” (Sarah Lacy). The fact that it was misnumbered may be an inadvertent clue to how much of an afterthought it was. And aside from this tweet, the above is not an apology to the public or to the press.
Rather, it’s an internal memo to Uber’s staff. It’s an admonition to people to stick to their jobs (“His duties here at Uber do not involve communications strategy or plans… until Emil’s comments we felt we were making positive steps…”); a messaging stylesheet (“We should lead by inspiring… We should tell the stories of progress and appeal to people’s hearts and minds…); and a call to arms (“The burden is on us to show that… We are up to the challenge…”). It makes a nod to “values and ideals” and “positive principles,” but it doesn’t specify what those are. When you are talking to the troops, your values, ideals, and principles—whatever they might be—are taken for granted.
In short, it’s an instruction to other Uber staff about how to communicate, and a warning about what happens when they step out of line. It doesn’t look much like contrition.