"We really have to think about the fact that we want a society where any of us — any individual in this country, any institution in this country, if they choose to — can scrutinize, examine and criticize an elected official," Bezos said during a Q&A led by Post executive editor Martin Baron that capped a technology conference at the paper's headquarters. "Especially a candidate for the highest office in the most powerful country on Earth. It's critical. What would be shocking and disturbing is if you weren't doing that. That would be troubling."
The comments were only part of what Bezos had to say about Trump. As The Post's Paul Farhi reports, Bezos had harsh words for Trump's suggestion that Bezos bought the newspaper in 2013 in order to fight back against government actions that would negatively affect his business.
As for the paper's Trump coverage, Bezos reiterated the assurance offered by associate editor Bob Woodward in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" last weekend — that The Post will thoroughly vet likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, a political veteran, just as it does Trump, who has never before run for office.
But the crux of Bezos's defense was that voters should crave more information about presidential candidates, not less. Tough coverage of Trump shouldn't be viewed as an attempt to talk people out of voting for the real estate mogul, but rather as an effort to help them make fact-based, thoughtfully considered choices, one way or the other.
"The citizens in this country make decisions," said Bezos, the founder of Amazon. "That's how it works in a democracy. And they need information to make those decisions. If you write a story and make sure people know about 'John Miller,' it's still the citizens' decision how to weight that. They might decide that it's fine to pretend to be your own publicist. And if they do, that's fine. Really. That's not our job."
The John Miller comment was a reference to The Post's report last week that Trump used to pose as his own spokesman under a fake name in telephone interviews with reporters. Trump denied the story's accuracy.
"Have you ever done that?" Baron asked Bezos about posing as your own spokesman.
"No, I've never done that!" Bezos exclaimed. "I don't want to do that job. I feel sorry for my PR guys."