Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said Donald Trump’s statement that he may not concede the election if he loses, or vow that he might lock up opponent Hillary Clinton if he wins, is evidence that the GOP candidate is "eroding democracy around the edges."
The Republican presidential candidate has threatened retribution against those critical of him and hinted that he wouldn’t gracefully accept a loss on election day.
"To try and chill the media and threaten retribution, retaliation — which is what he has done in a number of cases to people involved in the media — is not appropriate," Bezos told CNBC.
"We have freedom of speech in this country, written into the Constitution. But except for our norms and our behaviors — the stories we tell ourselves as a nation— it's just a piece of paper," he said.
Speaking at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco on Thursday, Bezos said he mistakenly took Trump’s candidacy lightly late last year when he sent a that joked about sending Trump to space. The two have been feuding on Twitter since last December.
Bezos, the world’s third-wealthiest man, owns the Washington Post newspaper, which first revealed video footage of Trump making lewd comments about women, disrupting his campaign and helping his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton gain in polls.
Trump, who has refused to release his own tax returns, has singled out Bezos in campaign speeches, saying he bought the newspaper in order to reap tax benefits and curry political favor for Amazon.
"One of the things that makes this country as amazing as it is, is that we are allowed to criticize and scrutinize our elected leaders," Bezos said. "And there are other countries where if you criticize the elected leader you might go to jail — or worse, you may just disappear. And the appropriate thing for a presidential candidate to do is to say, 'I am running for the highest office in the most important country in the world. Please scrutinize me.'"
Bezos also zeroed in on Peter Thiel, fellow dot-com magnate who has donated $1.25 million to Trump's campaign. "Peter Thiel is a contrarian, first and foremost," Bezos said. "You just have to remember that contrarians are usually wrong."
Still, Bezos said people with opposing political views should be able to work together.
Trump earlier this year slammed Bezos for using the Post as a "toy" in light of news accounts that 20 reporters have been assigned to investigate every aspect of the Republican nominee's life.
"Every hour, we're getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post asking ridiculous questions," Trump told Sean Hannity on Fox News. "This is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. He's using The Washington Post for power so the politicians don't tax Amazon like they should be," he said.
Bezos bought the Post in 2013 for $250 million. Associate Editor Bob Woodward had said that the newspaper was assigning 20 reporters to dig up every facet of Trump's life.
"He's worried, because he thinks I would go after him for antitrust because he has a huge antitrust problem because he's controlling so much," Trump told Hannity. "They're controlling so much. He bought this paper for practically nothing — and he's using that as a political tool for power against me and other people. We can't let him get away with it."
(Newsmax wire services and Bloomberg contributed to this report).
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