At Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting in Seattle this morning, the company’s leaders trumpeted its growth, charitable giving, and international expansion, but several shareholders were more interested in hearing about Amazon’s politics.
Several questions aimed at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had a political bent, including a request for an Amazon party “obsessed with voters,” in the same way Amazon prioritizes being “obsessed with customers” above all else. Bezos also fielded a plea for him to be the arbiter between rival politicians and an appearance by Rev. Jesse Jackson asking Amazon to be a leader in diversity efforts.
And of course, there was talk of President Donald Trump. Justin Danhof, a general counsel for the conservative research organization National Center for Public Policy Research, asked Bezos if he was afraid that Amazon’s opposition to Trump’s travel ban would antagonize Trump-voting customers. He also accused The Washington Post, which Bezos purchased in 2013, of having an anti-Trump bias.
Before we get into Bezos’ response, here’s a little backstory: Soon after Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days and refugees from crossing U.S. borders for 120 days, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit to block it. Numerous tech companies, including Amazon and Expedia, filed declarations of support for the lawsuit. Bezos wrote a letter to employees saying the company opposed Trump’s order, saying “we’re a nation of immigrants.”
Here’s how Bezos began his response to the question about Trump’s immigration policies:
“It’s very important that Amazon, in my opinion, not oppose or favor any presidential candidate or elected official, that’s not our job. Instead, The right thing for us is to take a very measured issue-by-issue approach.”
Bezos went on to say that employees have every right to their political stances and he allowed that Amazon is willing to make its thoughts known on certain occasions.
“When we take a stance on a particular issue it should be because it has an impact on the company or our employees,” Bezos said. “That’s what led us to take a position on the immigration issue. We have a large number of employees affected by that issue. It really is that simple.”
Don’t expect Amazon to take public positions on a lot of issues, Bezos said, but it will continue to engage in all branches of government, no matter who is in charge.
“Since we were founded in 1995, there have been four presidents, and under all of them, customers have liked low prices, fast delivery and big selection,” Bezos said. “I predict and hope that there will be another four presidents, hopefully more, and we will keep working on those things that we know everybody likes.”