The daily business briefing: April 12, 2017

United shares drop in fallout over passenger's treatment, Uber's PR chief becomes latest executive to leave, and more

The Uber logo in app form
(Image credit: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

1. United shares plunge in fallout over passenger's treatment

United Airlines shares dropped by just over 1 percent on Tuesday as the carrier faced harsh criticism over a viral video showing a passenger being dragged off an overbooked flight to make room for a member of a partner airline's crew. The stock plunge reduced the company's market capitalization by about $250 million. At one point in the day, the stock was down by 4 percent. United CEO Oscar Munoz, whose first attempts to defuse the crisis backfired when he said the passenger was "belligerent" and the crew acted properly, promised Tuesday that the airline would conduct an internal investigation and reconsider policies on calling police and "how we handle oversold" flights. "We are going to fix what's broken so this never happens again," Munoz wrote in a statement.

CNN The Washington Post

2. Uber loses its PR chief as executive exodus continues

The exodus of top executives from Uber continued on Tuesday, when the ride-hailing service announced the departure of its head of policy and communications, Rachel Whetstone. CEO Travis Kalanick said in an email to employees that Whetstone was leaving on good terms and of her own volition. Whetstone handled several recent crises, including complaints about the company's corporate culture, and a boycott call over the perception that Uber tried to capitalize on President Trump's controversial executive order on immigration. Three current and former Uber employees said Whetstone and Kalanick sometimes clashed over how to handle crisis communications. Last month, former Target executive Jeff Jones left Uber over leadership disagreements.

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The New York Times

3. O'Reilly leaves on vacation as advertisers abandon his Fox News show

Embattled Fox News host Bill O'Reilly told viewers Tuesday that he was taking a vacation. The announcement came as he faces a backlash over a report in The New York Times that he and his employer had paid $13 million in settlements to five women who accused him of sexual harassment and other abusive behavior. More than 50 advertisers have pulled their ads in the fallout, although O'Reilly's ratings are up. Early this week, Fox News' parent company said it was investigating a new complaint against O'Reilly, whose show, The O'Reilly Factor, is Fox's top-rated show. O'Reilly said he was just taking time off he had planned since last year. "I grab some vacation, because it's spring and Easter time," he said. "Last fall, I booked a trip that should be terrific." Fox News said he would return April 24.

The Washington Post

4. Rolling Stone settles with university administrator over debunked campus rape story

Rolling Stone and writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely have agreed to settle University of Virginia administrator Nicole Eramo's libel suit over a debunked article that described an alleged gang rape on campus, the magazine said Tuesday. Eramo said the November 2014 article defamed her, suggesting she was indifferent to sexual assault on campus, and made her out to be the "chief villain." A federal jury in November awarded her $3 million in damages, but Rolling Stone and Erdely appealed. Eramo's lawyers on Tuesday filed notice that she was dropping the suit, saying, "We are delighted that this dispute is now behind us, as it allows Nicole to move on and focus on doing what she does best, which is supporting victims of sexual assault."

The New York Times

5. Daily Mail agrees to pay Melania Trump damages over article

Britain's Daily Mail and the Mail Online website on Wednesday apologized to first lady Melania Trump and agreed to pay her an undisclosed settlement over an article they published last year about her work as a professional model that suggested she had worked as an escort. The newspaper retracted the report, saying it accepts that the allegations are "not true." Mrs. Trump had said in a $150 million lawsuit she filed in New York that the article had cost her millions of dollars in future business opportunities. A person familiar with the settlement told Reuters it involved payments of less than $3 million.

Reuters BBC News

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.