The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sanders accuses The Post of biased coverage due to his criticism of Amazon, cites no evidence

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at the Iowa State Fair on Sunday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at the Iowa State Fair on Sunday. (Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday took aim at The Washington Post at two separate town hall meetings, accusing the newspaper of being biased against his campaign due to his criticism of Amazon’s labor practices and tax record.

Sanders, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, did not cite any evidence for his claims. He later clarified his comments, saying he was speaking about corporate media more broadly.

Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour last year after Sanders and others called on the company to pay its workers a living wage. The senator has also argued that Amazon should pay more federal income tax, after the Wall Street Journal reported in June that it’s unclear whether the online retailer paid taxes last year.

The Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, and operates independently of Amazon.

At his town hall Monday in Wolfeboro, N.H., Sanders asked the audience, “Anybody here know how much Amazon paid in taxes last year?”

“Nothing!” some in the crowd replied.

“See, I talk about that all of the time,” Sanders replied. “And then I wonder why The Washington Post — which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon — doesn’t write particularly good articles about me. I don’t know why. But I guess maybe there’s a connection. Maybe we helped raise the minimum wage at Amazon to 15 bucks an hour as well.”

Sanders repeated the claim later Monday night at a town hall in North Conway, N.H.

Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor, said in a statement that Bezos does not interfere with or influence the newspaper’s coverage.

“Sen. Sanders is a member of a large club of politicians — of every ideology — who complain about their coverage,” Baron said. “Contrary to the conspiracy theory the senator seems to favor, Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence, as our reporters and editors can attest.”

On Tuesday, Sanders partially walked back his comments in an interview with CNN, although he disputed the notion that he was promoting a conspiracy theory.

“I think my criticism of the corporate media is not that they are anti-Bernie — that they wake up, you know, in the morning and say, ‘What could we do to hurt Bernie Sanders?’” Sanders said. “That’s not the case, that Jeff Bezos gets on the phone to The Washington Post.”

He added that “there is a framework of what we can discuss and what we cannot discuss, and that’s a serious problem.”

The Post reported last month that unionized campaign organizers working on Sanders’s team battled with the campaign’s management, arguing that the compensation and treatment they were receiving did not meet the standards Sanders espouses in his rhetoric, according to internal communications. Campaign field hires demanded an annual salary equivalent to a $15-an-hour wage, which Sanders for years has said should be the federal minimum.

The organizers and other employees supporting them invoked the senator’s words and principles in making their case to Sanders’s campaign manager, documents reviewed by The Post showed.

The unionized organizers reached an agreement on pay-raise proposal from management four days after The Post story was published.

President Trump has also repeatedly complained about The Post’s coverage of him and his administration. Last year, the president falsely stated that the newspaper operates as a lobbyist for Amazon.

Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.