Two big takeaways from the debacle concerning Ben Smith reporting that Uber Senior Veep Emil Michael wanted to hire an oppo team to investigate journalists’ private lives.
1. Smith dresses poorly.
2. If Smith was not informed that the dinner is off the record, and doesn’t attend with that understanding, it’s fair game.
So who’s to blame for this public relations fiasco? Is it Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff, who brought Smith to a fancy, elite dinner as his “date,” or the Uber exec, who was foolish enough to tell a room full of people that included media such as Arianna Huffington and actor Ed Norton that he wanted to reveal private details about journalists?
Even if the dinner was formally off the record and Smith knew that, he’d have a clear obligation to the journalism profession to offer a warning about Uber’s evil intentions. By the way, Michael apologized and said he didn’t mean it, but does any journalist possibly believe him?
Wolff took lot of heat on Twitter Tuesday for the whole ordeal. Let’s hear what he has to say for himself.
Other journalists who know Smith can attest to his bad dressing style.
“He always comes looking like hell,” cracked Politico‘s Maggie Haberman, a longtime pal of Smith’s, on Twitter. “This can’t be news?” To which Smith replied, “Thanks mag.” Maggie mused, “If your best friends can’t say it, who can?” BuzzFeed’s Washington Bureau Chief John Stanton, interjected, “Yeah, hell basically is gingam [sic].” (Note: gingam should be gingham.)
NYT‘s Nick Confessore questioned the purity of Wolff’s motives of somehow forgetting to tell Smith the dinner was off the record: “I dunno, I learned that Michael Wolff is a masterful shit stirrer even by dinner-guest proxy!”
Smith has always had an extremely strict policy regarding “off the record.”
To him, it’s an agreement. Nothing more, nothing less.