Tinder's sexual harassment lawsuit hasn't even gone to trial yet, but TechCrunch already thinks it's a bunch of bullshit. Earlier today, tech's favorite mouthpiece published an investigation into Whitney Wolfe's lawsuit that was highly sympathetic towards her former employer. An hour later, TechCrunch announced Tinder CEO Sean Rad would be speaking at their conference in September. Hmm.
The article on the former Tinder VP of Marketing's allegations relied almost exclusively on anonymous quotes—largely from inside the startup itself. It paints Wolfe as an opportunistic, scandalous, cheating, dishonest, dramatic, sex-crazied, and generally problematic woman. The whole thing reads like it could have been ghostwritten by Tinder's defense team.
TechCrunch goes beyond simple victim blaming. They (and their sources) work to portray Wolfe as the stereotypical Crazy Bitch Ex-Girlfriend. For example, when discussing the breakup between Wolfe and former Tinder CMO Justin Mateen—the latter being Wolfe's ex-boyfriend, ex-boss, and object of many of her sexual harassment complaints—TechCrunch depicts her as thoroughly unstable.
According to one friend, Whitney said over text messages that she loved Justin and couldn't stop thinking about him. This was also in December. [...]
Between February and late March, the status of the relationship between Whitney and Justin was still slightly unclear. One employee remembers an instance in which Whitney approached Justin in a very heated manner and began discussing personal issues in the office.
"Justin kept telling her not to do this in the office, but she wouldn't let up," said the employee. "Eventually, Alexa Mateen stood up and told Whitney to not to discuss personal drama in the office. Whitney told her that if she ever got involved again, she would kill her."
Despite the abundance of pro-Tinder sources, TechCrunch doesn't bother to get her side of the story. They even brush over the cache of harassing text messages sent to Wolfe—texts that clearly prove Mateen was threatening towards her.
Wolfe has also accused Sean Rad of stripping her co-founder title because she is a woman. There is plenty of evidence that she was a co-founder, including a text message from Rad assuring her she "still" was a co-founder. And yet TechCrunch makes sure we know that this was a just a temporary title.
When Whitney did interviews, she repeatedly asked Sean to let her go by "co-founder," claiming that the press would take her more seriously if she had that title, according to people in the office.
According to my sources, Sean and Whitney were incredibly close friends (after all, she was dating his best friend and they all worked together) and he did, in fact, give in a number of times.
"Sean knew she wasn't a founder… we all knew she wasn't a founder" one source said on the phone. "But he wanted to help her career, and he knew that having female representation in the press could only be a good thing for the company."
Either someone is a co-founder or not. This isn't a title CEOs loan out to employees as a form of career charity. TechCrunch knows this. But instead of being skeptical of anonymous Tinder sources minimizing Wolfe's role in the company, TechCrunch paraded around the accusations without any substantive counter-argument from Wolfe's side. The best TechCrunch could do was to suggest "the decision to let Whitney use the term co-founder in the press was probably a bad one."
This is beyond lazy. Here we have an industry blog, allegedly doing investigative reporting on sexual discrimination at a prominent startup, using that startups' star CEO to promote its conference. TechCrunch has an open line of communication with Tinder, spent hours interviewing their employees and friends, and scrawled out a one-sided hit piece.
Is this how tech encourages women to speak up about abuse?
Update: TechCrunch editor Alexia Tsotsis responded to our criticism on Tumblr.