Amazon founder Jeff Bezos marked his return to Earth by thanking employees and customers of the retail giant for funding his trip to space, setting off critics who accused the billionaire of exploiting the poor and then gloating.
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all this,” Bezos, donning a cowboy hat and blue astronaut coveralls, said at a press briefing on Tuesday after completing the first manned space mission by his Blue Origin rocket-ship firm. “So seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated.”
Judging by reaction on social media platforms, the expression of appreciation wasn’t appreciated. Observers ripped the 57-year-old billionaire, who ranks as the world’s richest person with a fortune estimated by Forbes at nearly $205 billion, for indulging in space endeavors at the expense of allegedly mistreated employees rather than using his riches to help people.
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“Correction: Employees didn’t pay for this,” podcast host and Ohio state senator Nina Turner said on Twitter. “Their wages were stolen to pay for a billionaire’s space vacation. Jeff Bezos can thank his workers by treating them with dignity and paying them fair wages, and he can thank us all by paying his damn taxes.”
Correction: employees didn’t pay for this — their wages were stolen to pay for a billionaire’s space vacation. Jeff Bezos can thank his workers by treating them with dignity and paying them fair wages….and he can thank us all by paying his damn taxes. https://t.co/tDrrDlOYq5
— Nina Turner (@ninaturner) July 20, 2021
Journalist Auskar Surbakti picked up on the tax theme, saying, “Jeff Bezos should also thank governments around the world for allowing him to dodge countless billions of dollars in taxes.”
“I want to thank every #Amazon employee…” Does that include his warehouse and delivery workers who are too afraid to take bathroom breaks? Jeff Bezos should also thank governments around the world for allowing him to dodge countless of billions of dollars in taxes #BlueOriginpic.twitter.com/nLtIRY1I6i
— Auskar Surbakti (@AuskarSurbakti) July 20, 2021
Yahoo Finance host Zack Guzman tweeted that Amazon warehouse employees would just like to be granted bathroom breaks. In fact, workers have complained of grueling and unsafe working conditions, as well as insufficient and timed bathroom breaks. The company also was hit with five new lawsuits in May, brought by warehouse and office workers who alleged racial and gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation for filing complaints.
Jeff Bezos at his Blue Origin space flight press conference: “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you paid for this.”Amazon warehouse employees just looking for bathroom breaks: pic.twitter.com/AlH2fcyOrV
— Zack Guzmán (@zGuz) July 20, 2021
Writer Nicole Tersigni likened Tuesday’s comment by Bezos to a macabre scene: “Jeff Bezos, gluing the last body to his castle made out of poor people, couldn’t have done it without you guys.”
jeff bezos: [gluing the last body to his castle made out of poor people] thank you to poor people, couldn’t have done it without you guys
— nicole tersigni (@nicsigni) July 20, 2021
But Bezos did find admiration in at least one place: the White House. President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, called Tuesday’s Blue Origin space flight “an example of American exceptionalism. That’s how we see it.”
The capsule carrying Bezos and three other passengers landed in West Texas after briefly floating in space. The adventure came just nine days after fellow billionaire Richard Branson completed a similarly brief suborbital flight to space.
After expressing his gratitude, Bezos spoke about the incredible feeling of venturing to space. The most profound aspect of the experience was looking down on the earth from above and seeing the “fragility” of its atmosphere.
“When you get up above it, what you see is it’s actually incredibly thin,” Bezos said. “It’s this tiny little fragile thing, and as we move about the planet, we’re damaging it.”
To the extent that human activity damages the atmosphere, Bezos likely inflicts more than his share of harm. He already owns two private jets, and his carbon footprint will be growing considerably after he reportedly bought a $165 million Beverly Hills mansion last year and ordered a 127-meter yacht. The $500 million vessel requires a motorized support ship with a helipad, at least partly because its three giant masts don’t allow for landing a helicopter on its deck.
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