Whitman compared journalists who cultivate sources within companies to sexual predators who “groom underage” victims during a tense meeting last week with Quibi staffers, The Information reported. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO and California gubernatorial candidate made the analogy while addressing a leaked memo that contained internal financial information about Quibi.
“I used an analogy that was inappropriate and just plain wrong,” Whitman told Variety at the Sundance Film Festival, where Quibi was set to unveil its content lineup. “None of us are ever perfect. I didn’t intend it, and it’s not at all how I think, how I feel.”
Whitman’s remarks “upset some Quibi employees who described them as strange and off-putting,” according to The Information’s report. Quibi initially disputed the report, which it described as “materially inaccurate.”
Whitman acknowledged to Variety that her comments were “mostly accurately portrayed.”
“I’ve had a long, long history with journalists, and I completely respect what you all do and the important role that you play,” she added. “So I’m super sorry about it.”
Quibi did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
The analogy drew a rebuke earlier this week from the News Media Alliance, a journalism industry trade group that represents nearly 2,000 media organizations.
“It’s not the job of journalism to be compliant to the powerful. It’s to find good sources of information and ask hard questions,” NMA president and CEO David Chavern told FOX Business. “Comparing the normal processes of reporting to the grooming of sexual victims is simply horrific.”
Whitman also served a stint as CEO of eBay. She sits on the board of directors for several institutions, including consumer goods firm Proctor & Gamble, cloud storage firm DropBox and nonprofit Teach for America, and owns a stake in Major League Soccer’s FC Cincinnati.
The institutions have yet to comment on her remarks
Whitman was the first employee hired at Quibi, a mobile-only streaming service founded by Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. The company will offer a tiered subscription service with a variety of short-form content, including movies, documentaries and sports highlights.