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Uber Board Has Full Confidence in CEO Kalanick, Huffington Says

Arianna Huffington, a board member of the ride-sharing company, said the company is taking steps after a former engineer alleged sexual harassment.
Image: Uber CEO Kalanick speaks to students during an interaction at IIT campus in Mumbai
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks to students during an interaction at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus in Mumbai, India on Jan. 19, 2016.Danish Siddiqui / Reuters, file

Uber board member Arianna Huffington says the ride sharing company's board of directors "absolutely" has full confidence in CEO Travis Kalanick to lead Uber despite several controversies in recent months.

Huffington also said the search for the newly-created Chief Operating Officer role is continuing.

On March 7, 40-year-old Kalanick said in a statement that Uber is "actively looking for a Chief Operating Officer: a peer who can partner with me to write the next chapter in our journey," following allegations of sexual harassment and sexism inside the company by former employees.

"We have an amazing amount of incredibly successful, brilliant women who have applied for the COO job," Huffington said. "We cannot share the names but it is really an indication of how excited people are to help lead Uber into the future."

Uber is in the midst of an "urgent" internal investigation of sexual harassment and sexism inside the company, spurred by a blog post by former engineer Susan Fowler on Feb. 19. Fowler said a direct supervisor attempted to convince her to "have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line," and detailed instances when Uber human resources allegedly swept it under the rug. Uber has hired former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to investigate the claims.

Soon after, founder and CEO Kalanick was caught on video arguing with an Uber driver, Fawzi Kamel, on Super Bowl Sunday. In a video provided to Bloomberg News, Kalanick argued with Kamel about falling fares.

It resulted in a heated exchange, ending with Kalanick saying, "You know what? Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own s***. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”"

"Sometimes companies — like human beings — have to go through a crisis for major changes to take place but that’s what’s happening at Uber," Huffington told NBC News on Friday.

Related: Uber Driver Explains Why He Argued With CEO Kalanick

Kalanick apologized to his staff in an email saying, "to say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement" and vowed that "I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up."

Huffington, who has served on Uber's board since April of 2016, said she recently met with all women employees at Uber’s self-driving car center in Pittsburgh. She said Uber is taking immediate measures to improve the culture for women inside the ride-sharing company as the investigation continues.

"We’re already putting in place many changes, including many small changes like family rooms where women with young children can pump milk," Huffington said. "There are often small changes that make a difference in the lives of employees and along with bigger changes."

Last week, Uber also issued a statement pledging not to use “Greyball” technology against regulators who are investigating the company.

"Greyballing" was first reported by the New York Times. According to the Times report, Uber deployed the technology to target regulators in cities where the service was either restricted or banned. In a statement to NBC, Uber said Greyball was used for "many purposes" including marketing, fraud prevention and protecting drivers from physical harm.

An earlier version of this story indicated the search for a Chief Operating Officer is narrowing. According to Huffington, that search is continuing.