Scooter startup Lime has sought to back peddle on an explanation given by its VP of global expansion late last week when asked why it had hired the controversial PR firm, Definers Public Affairs.
The opposition research firm, which has ties to the Republican Party, has been at the center of a reputation storm for Facebook, after a New York Times report last month suggested the controversial PR firm sought to leverage anti-semitic smear tactics — by sending journalists a document linking anti-Facebook groups to billionaire George Soros (after he had been critical of Facebook).
Last month it also emerged that other tech firms had engaged Definers — Lime being one of them. And speaking during an on stage interview at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin last Thursday, Lime’s Caen Contee claimed it had not known Definers would use smear tactics.
Yet, as we reported previously, a Definers employee sent us an email pitch in October in which it wrote suggestively that “Bird’s numbers seem off”.
This pitch did not disclose the PR firm was being paid by Lime.
Asked about this last week Contee claimed not to know anything about Definers’ use of smear tactics, saying Lime had engaged the firm to work on its green and carbon free programs — and to try to understand “what were the levers of opportunity for us to really create the messaging and also to do our own research; understanding the life-cycle; all the pieces that are in a very complex business”.
“As soon as we understood they were doing some of these things we parted ways and finished our program with them,” he also said.
However, following the publication of our article reporting on his comments, a Lime spokesperson emailed with what the subject line billed as a “statement for your latest story”, tee-ing this up by writing: “Hoping you can update the piece”.
The statement went on to claim that Contee “misspoke” and “was inaccurate in his description of [Definers] work”.
However it did not specify exactly what Contee had said that was incorrect.
A short while later the same Lime spokesperson sent us another version of the statement with updated wording, now entirely removing the reference to Contee.
You can read both statements below.
As you read them, note how the second version of the statement seeks to obfuscate the exact source of the claimed inaccuracy, using wording that seeks to shift blame in way that a casual reader might interpret as external and outside the company’s control…
Our VP of Global Expansion misspoke at TechCrunch Disrupt regarding our relationship with Definers and was inaccurate in his description of their work. As previously reported, we engaged them for a three month contract to assist with compiling media coverage reports, limited public relations and fact checking, and we are no longer working with Definers.
What was presented at Disrupt regarding our relationship with Definers and the description of their work was inaccurate. As previously reported, we engaged them for a three month contract to assist with compiling media coverage reports, limited public relations and fact checking, and we are no longer working with Definers.
Despite the Lime spokesperson’s hope for a swift update to our report, they did not respond when we asked for clarification on what exactly Contee had said that was “inaccurate”.
A claim of inaccuracy that does not provide any detail of the substance upon which the claim rests smells a lot like spin to us.
Three days later we’re still waiting to hear the substance of Lime’s claim because it has still not provided us with an explanation of exactly what Contee said that was ‘wrong’.
Perhaps Lime was hoping for a silent edit to the original report to provide some camouflaging fuzz atop a controversy of the company’s own making. i.e. that a PR firm it hired tried to smear a rival.
If so, oopsy.
Of course we’ll update this report if Lime does get in touch to provide an explanation of what it was that Contee “misspoke”. Frankly we’re all ears at this point.