President Donald Trump has been firing shots at Amazon, its CEO Jeff Bezos, and the newspaper he owns for more than a week now. Trump has accused Amazon of ripping off the U.S. Postal Service (a claim that has been widely disputed) and underpaying taxes. Trump has also repeatedly claimed The Washington Post is pushing Amazon’s agenda, although Bezos owns the paper independently from the e-commerce giant.
The Washington Post finally fired back Thursday.
Marc Fisher, a senior editor at the newspaper, examined Trump and Bezos as foils of one another: two billionaires with radically different opinions on the future of the U.S. economy and society. Trump is “a staunch bricks-and-mortar man who made his fortune building towers and dealing with blue-collar workers,” Fisher writes. Bezos is “a space enthusiast who experiments with robots and operates much of the cloud where the new economy’s data lives.” The difference is “as much philosophical as it is economic, as much about the fraying of communities as it is about the shape of commerce,” according to Fisher.
But the story doesn’t just explore the culture clash between two billionaires; it also serves as a defense of The Post, fact-checking many of the president’s accusations. Frederick Ryan Jr., The Post’s chief executive and publisher sticks up for the newspaper in an interview with Fisher:
Trump appears to view ownership of a newspaper as a way to assert influence. Jeff sees the value of a strong, independent press. Jeff has never proposed a story. Jeff has never intervened in a story. He’s never critiqued a story. He’s not directed or proposed editorials or endorsements. The decisions are made here.
The Washington Post’s measured response contrasts with CNN’s more combative approach when faced with similar attacks from Trump this week. As Politico’s Jason Schwartz notes, the challenge is responding to “a president who has labeled the media as the opposition … without playing into his hand by appearing to be, in fact, the opposition. And on that score, top media observers say, CNN’s approach is riskier than the Post’s.”
While Trump pummeled The Post for allegedly pushing Bezos’s political agenda, a separate media bias scandal was playing out this week. Deadspin published an eerie video compilation showing news anchors across the country reciting the same speech about “fake news,” revealing the influence of Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner of local TV news stations (including Seattle’s KOMO News). It is not the first time Sinclair has been accused of using its reporters to promote right-wing views.
The irony appeared to be lost on the president, who tweeted that “The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast.”
Read the full Washington Post story, titled “Why Trump went after Bezos: Two billionaires across a cultural divide,” here.