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Ashton Kutcher defends Uber's Travis Kalanick

Commentary: On the "Howard Stern Show," the actor says people should be allowed to make mistakes. How many, exactly?

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

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Ashton Kutcher appears to be on Travis Kalanick's side.

Paul Morigi

Regrets, I have a few. But then again, how many does Travis Kalanick have?

I only ask because Ashton Kutcher seems to think the former Uber CEO may have been harshly treated.

The actor and Uber investor appeared on "The Howard Stern Show" on Wednesday and offered sympathy for Kalanick's plight. On Tuesday, Kalanick resigned as chief executive of the ride-hailing startup after pressure from investors concerned that the company's valuation might be affected by the constant stench of scandal wafting around Uber.

Kutcher explained he'd invested "probably a couple of million dollars" early in Uber's rise. He described Kalanick as a friend and said he felt "conflicted" by what had occurred in recent times.

"I'm 100 percent certain there were mistakes made and he would cop to the fact that he made mistakes and did things that he maybe shouldn't have done," said Kutcher.

He didn't specify whether this might have included a remarkable tolerance for sexual harassment, as described in former Uber engineer Susan Fowler's now-famous blog post.

Instead, Kutcher seemed to blame the world, rather than Kalanick. "I feel like we're in a society today that is so fast to judge people, and that we have to realize people make mistakes, and you have to let people learn from their mistakes," he said.

How many mistakes, exactly? It seems that Kalanick managed to skate past accusations of illegalities, boorish tech bro behaviorintimidation of journalists and quite a few more before anything even began to be addressed.

"I don't know the extent of the internal damage, so I can't really comment, because I don't really know," Kutcher told Stern. He hasn't read Fowler's post? He hasn't noticed how many job vacancies there currently are at the company? Sample: CFO, COO, CMO.

"I know that his intent as a human is good," said Kutcher. So, some might wonder, it's his intent as a CEO that was the problem? Perhaps not. "I also know that that company isn't a $60 billion, $100 billion company without him because he had this maniacal focus on growing the company," explained Kutcher.

Kutcher painted Kalanick as something of a hero for fighting "taxi medallion mafiosos" and combating "regulatory issues."

Kutcher tried to remain fair and balanced by saying: "I know that there were, sort of, cultural shortfalls within the company that happened along the way." Sexual harassment might indeed be described as a sort of cultural shortfall. 

Still, Kutcher seems to feel it was wrong to ask for Kalanick's resignation.

"I don't know that removing him is the best answer," he said, "but I think, you know, optically, things have to happen like that sometimes."

So there you have it. Removing Travis Kalanick is Hollywood-style optics, rather than, say, a desperate attempt to address a complete failure of management.

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