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Rachel Whetstone. Photo by Toru Yamanaka//AFP/GettyImages

Former Uber Southeast Asia executive Eric Alexander this week sued former Uber communications chief Rachel Whetstone (soon joining Netflix) for allegedly breaching a two-way non-disparagement agreement.

Why it matters: This case could remind potential media sources they have few legal privacy protections.

The details: Alexander's complaint relates to the 2014 rape of a female Uber passenger in India, and media reports that Alexander obtained the victim's medical records and handled them improperly.

  • In his filing, Alexander claims he received the documents legally from an Uber-retained India law firm (as part of the overall case file,) and at the request of Uber corporate.
  • He also believes Whetstone was a source of the media reports, although she was not identified in the reports and Alexander presents no specific evidence.

Between the lines: There is lots of he-said/she-said stuff in the complaint, but let's just focus on the core claim and the case's broader implications:

  • The involved reporters (Recode's Kara Swisher and Bloomberg's Eric Newcomer) are covered by a media shield law in California, so neither would be required to divulge their sources.
  • But Rachel Whetstone would have no such protections and, in theory, the judge could allow a plaintiff request for things like phone or email records. Particularly if Alexander persuasively claims that it's the only viable way to discover a core piece of potential evidence.
  • Sources don't have legal privacy protections, according to a media attorney who spoke with Axios. They are almost never sued because it's highly unusual for a "violated" party to know a leaker's identity with any degree of certainty, but theoretically it can happen.
  • Alexander's decision to only sue Whetstone — after reportedly considering a broader defendant class — likely speaks to his effort to minimize the appearance of a fishing expedition.

Be smart: That said, even if Alexander can receive Whetstone's records — and even if they show she communicated with the reporters about him (yes, a big "if") — he would still have to prove that her comments were factually untrue.

Whetstone declined comment, and Alexander's attorney didn't get back to me. Uber, which isn't named as a defendant, also declined comment — including on the question of if it did or didn't ask Alexander to obtain the victim file — as did former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Go deeper

Scoop: FDA chief called to West Wing

Stephen Hahn. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has summoned FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn to the West Wing for a 9:30am meeting Tuesday to explain why he hasn't moved faster to approve the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, two senior administration officials told Axios.

Why it matters: The meeting is shaping up to be tense, with Hahn using what the White House will likely view as kamikaze language in a preemptive statement to Axios: "Let me be clear — our career scientists have to make the decision and they will take the time that’s needed to make the right call on this important decision."

Scoop: Schumer's regrets

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images   

Chuck Schumer told party donors during recent calls that the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the fact that Cal Cunningham "couldn't keep his zipper up" crushed Democrats' chances of regaining the Senate, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Democrats are hoping for a 50-50 split by winning two upcoming special elections in Georgia. But their best chance for an outright Senate majority ended when Cunningham lost in North Carolina and Sen. Susan Collins won in Maine.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.