In the CBS studio in New York City on Wednesday morning, Gayle King said sarcastically: ‘I love people trying to tell him how to spend his own money’ after Jeff Bezos was criticized for spending $5.5bn on his Blue Origin flight to space
Gayle King defended Jeff Bezos on Wednesday morning amid criticism of his $5.5billion space mission, saying he should be able to spend his money how he wants after agreeing with him that people ‘don’t understand’ it is part of a grand plan to save the planet and not a billionaire’s joyride.
Gayle interviewed Bezos and his brother Mark two hours after they returned to Earth following their 10-minute voyage into space, in Van Horn, Texas, on Tuesday. They sat outside the crew capsule then the pair gave Gayle a tour of it, letting her sit in one of the seats.
‘I don’t think people truly understand what this means and why it’s important,’ Gayle said at the start of the interview.
Bezos replied: ‘Yeah, you’re right Gayle. I don’t think people understand or most people don’t.’
He went on to explain how his goal with Blue Origin is to eventually move all of the polluting industries on Earth to space to allow them to continue while preserving Earth’s environment, something he says has become lost in the criticism of the wildly expensive flight.
Insisting he is not trying to compete with Virgin boss Richard Branson or Elon Musk, Bezos said: ‘It is not a competition….what we have to do is build a whole industry. You have to have many companies pulling together. They compete against each other but there can be many winners.’
Shortly before speaking to Gayle, Bezos, at a press conference in Van Horn, said: ‘I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this.’
He was slammed for the comment by disgruntled Amazon workers, labor unions and consumers who say it was a ‘tone deaf’ remark from the world’s richest man.
Gayle, in the CBS studio on Wednesday, defended him again.
‘There’s been a lot of talk about all the money that was spent and how he spends his money… I love people trying to tell him how to spend his own money.’
She then fawned over Bezos’ ‘jaw dropping’ gift of $100million each to CNN’s Van Jones and Chef Jose Andres. The pair both run their own charities and Bezos said they can use the money however they see fit.
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Gayle had interviewed Bezos and his brother Mark in Van Horn, hours after they returned to Earth following their 10-minute voyage into space. They took her inside the crew capsule which propelled them above Earth’s atmosphere and told her what it was like when the g-force pulled the skin on their cheeks back on lift-off.
Gayle King sitting inside the crew capsule on Wednesday with Mark Bezos, Jeff’s brother
While an extraordinary amount of money for most people, $200million is less than 1 percent of Jeff Bezos’ fortune.
It is also a fraction of what his ex-wife, MacKenzie, gave to charity in 2020 – $5billion. King and her co-hosts nonetheless praised Bezos for his philanthropic announcement.
‘Yesterday he also did something that was jaw dropping.
‘The courage and civility award – that’s getting lost in this coverage- he gave it to Van Jones and chef Jose Andres. It’s to distribute to charities of their choice, he is singling out people who he thinks are doing hard work and doing it with civility.
‘It was jaw dropping. Van has done a lot of work with criminal justice reform, we know Chef Jose’s work…
‘I love Jeff Bezos’ point – you can look to the future and you can look to what’s happening here and do both and do good things and they certainly are doing that,’ she said.
Bezos had told her he was trying to move pollution to space and save Planet Earth with his space mission.
‘If you think about it, we, humanity, is big now. The earth is small, it’s fragile. It feels big to us but when you get into space and see the atmosphere it’s so thin and fragile-looking.
‘This sounds fantastical but it will happen – we can move all heavy industry, all polluting industry, off of earth and operate it in space. And that can’t happen today it will take many decades.
‘It will be like in the era of the Kitty Hawk, tiny little airplane that can fly 100ft. If you told somebody someday there would be a 787, it would seem impossible. We’ve been to all the planets in the solar system with robotic probes, this is the good one. it’s the only good one and we have to protect it.
Gayle interviewing Mark and Jeff Bezos in Van Horn, Texas, on Wednesday, two hours after the flight
Jeff and his brother Mark joked around with Gayle at the Van Horn base during their interview
‘Mark and I are going to be dead before this job is done, it’s not about us. It’s about what Blue Origin can do, which is build a space vehicle that is so operable, inexpensive and commercial that it becomes the infrastructure the next generation can use to take those big steps.’
Gayle King at the billionaires summit Allen & Co summit in Sun Valley earlier this year
The billionaire – worth a staggering $214billion – went to space on Tuesday with his brother Mark, astronaut Wally Funk, and Dutch teen Oliver Daemen whose private equity father paid an undisclosed but likely exorbitant amount for his seat.
Bezos’ mission has been widely criticized.
While he is the world’s richest man, he is not the most philanthropic, and while he’s spent $5.5billion fulfilling his personal dream of going to space, Amazon has pushed back on worker demands to unionize to improve conditions.
A recent Pro Publica report also pointed out that Bezos didn’t pay income tax for years.
Between 2006 and 2018, his personal fortune grew by $127billion but he only paid $1.4billion in taxes – a rate of 1.1 percent. By comparison, the tax brackets for 2020 to 2021 go as high as 37 percent for someone earning over $500,000 a year, and start at 10 percent for the first $10,000 of anyone’s salary.
On Tuesday, Bezos announced a $100million award for ‘civility and courage’ that was to be used to better things on Earth by being donated to charity.
Bezos gave chef Jose Andres and CNN contributor Van Jones $100million each yesterday. Both men run non-profit organizations – Jose’s fights hunger and Van’s pushes for prison reform. Gayle praised Bezos for the ‘jaw dropping’ gift
He gave it to CNN contributor Van Jones, who runs a prison reform non-profit organization and works on racial justice, and gave another $100million to celebrity chef Jose Andres whose charity World Central Kitchen fights hunger.
Many lauded him for the donations but others pointed out it is a tiny fraction of what he spent on the space mission, and also pales in comparison to the $5billion his ex-wife MacKenzie gave to charities in 2020 alone.
MacKenzie, after being awarded more than $30bn in their divorce and seeing that grow to a value of over $50bn thanks to rising Amazon stock prices, joined the Giving Pledge in 2020. She, like other members including Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, pledged to give away half their net worth. Jeff Bezos has not signed up.
The Teamsters Union, which tried to unionize Amazon workers but failed earlier this year, was among those to criticize Bezos.
‘One part of Bezos’s statement is surprisingly accurate – it is Amazon workers who have built his fortune – but if Jeff Bezos really wants to thank Amazon workers, he should listen to their demands for safer working conditions, a voice in the workplace, and good, family sustaining middle class jobs—rather than perpetuating a highly exploitative business model of high pace of work, high rates of injury, high rates of turnover and low pay,’ Randy Korgan, Teamsters National Director for Amazon, told DailyMail.com.
Others asked why he was giving away $200million in philanthropic rewards instead of increasing Amazon workers’ pay, which starts at $15 an hour, twice the federal minimum wage, a fact Bezos says proves he does listen to them.
Bernie Sanders and AOC were among those who slammed him for the comment on Tuesday.
‘Am I supposed to be impressed that a billionaire went to space while he’s paid zero in federal income taxes some years and the workers at his company struggle to afford their medical bills, rent, and food for their kids?’ the Vermont senator tweeted.
‘Nope. It’s time to invest in working people here on Earth.’
Fellow Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also took aim at Bezos over his lack of tax payments, retweeting a post quoting the billionaire’s comments during the press conference.
‘Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing,’ she tweeted.
In a follow-up tweet, Warren urged Americans to sign her three-step plan to change the nation’s tax laws.
‘I’m pushing for three changes to our tax laws—a #WealthTax, a Real Corporate Profits Tax, and long-term funding for the IRS to go after wealthy tax cheats—to make billionaires & mega-corporations start paying their fair share,’ she wrote.
Last month, a ProPublica report revealed that Bezos paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011.
Confidential tax documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service, seen by the publication, showed the world’s richest man avoided paying a dime those years by citing losing more than he earned.
Instead, he reportedly claimed and received a $4,000 tax credit for children. This credit is supposed to be for families that earn less than $100,000.