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Arianna Huffington becomes Uber's first female board member

​The ride-hailing startup names the Huffington Post editor to its board as it fends off competition, critics and lawsuits.

Arianna Huffington and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick together in a video welcoming her to Uber's board.

Arianna Huffington and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick together in a video welcoming her to Uber's board.

Uber; YouTube screenshot by CNET

Ride-hailing startup Uber on Wednesday named Arianna Huffington to be the first woman on its board of directors.

Huffington is the liberal pundit and Huffington Post editor who recently wrote a best-selling book on the importance of sleep.

"Arianna embodies the type of optimistic leadership we need as Uber continues to grow," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in a blog post.

Her addition to Uber's board comes as the company, which is now operating in 412 cities worldwide, faces an outcry over its record of passenger safety, particularly for women. In January 2015, a woman from New Delhi filed a lawsuit against Uber in the US alleging the company's "negligence" and "fraud" led to her sexual assault by an Uber driver. And in October, it was hit with a lawsuit alleging the ride-hailing company knowingly neglects the safety of its female customers.

Earlier this month Uber agreed to pay as much as $25 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the county of Los Angeles and the county of San Francisco that accused it of misleading consumers about safety.

Huffington's nomination to the board doesn't sit too well with media watchers, who question how The Huffington Post will be able to cover Uber fairly with its editor on the board. Gawker's headline on the news reads: "Arianna Huffington Goes for the Gold Medal in Conflicts of Interest."

Huffington said in a blog post Wednesday that "as HuffPost's editor-in-chief, I have recused myself from any and all editorial coverage of Uber."

Other directors include venture capitalist Bill Gurley of Benchmark and David Plouffe, Uber's former policy and communications chief.

Update, April 28 at 11:27 a.m. PT: Adds quote from Arianna Huffington's blog post.