Amazon PR chief Jay Carney spent his Monday evening engaging in series of escalating and increasingly combative arguments with members of the news media on Twitter. It marks a rare case of one of the e-commerce giant’s more notable representatives taking a less measured approach to public relations. As of this article’s publication, Carney’s tweets are still live.
Carney, a former White House press secretary under President Barack Obama, specifically took issue with framings of his op-ed in The New York Times this morning, titled “Why Bernie Sanders Praised Amazon.” Some reporters, most prominently members of BuzzFeed News, found the op-ed opportunistic and too conveniently timed to a recent letter from the Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate that condemned Amazon for its abysmal worker safety record.
Also funny how @JayCarney brags about the company's mandatory $15 an hour across the board minimum wage, yet we found numerous Amazon delivery contractors advertising jobs that paid less than that. pic.twitter.com/30kLAI1yux— Ken Bensinger (@kenbensinger) February 10, 2020
Carney’s op-ed for the NYT framed a 2018 phone call from Sanders as a voice of support from the senator for Amazon raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. It did, however, leave out that Amazon did so after pressure from Sanders himself, among other vocal critics and labor activists.
“While we fully agree that a company of Amazon’s size should be scrutinized, we also believe people should know that Amazon is doing exactly what many lawmakers and critics insist the private sector should do,” Carney wrote, noting that Amazon raised its minimum wage without being directed to do so by the federal government.
Reporters soon began pointing out how convenient it was that Carney was touting a personal thank you from Sanders delivered to his boss, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, while leaving out details about the pressure campaign Sanders waged. Some reporters also pointed out that the op-ed also seemed designed to counter a letter sent by Sanders and 14 other Senators sent last week, but made widely public earlier today, that condemned the company’s higher-than-average injury rate for private sector employers.
Another thread of criticism directed toward Carney has been a broader call, one often repeated by Sanders and numerous other Amazon critics, that the company does not pay its fair share of taxes and so should not be patting itself on the back for raising its minimum wage.
Under normal circumstances, this would be an anticipated response, especially considering Carney’s boss is the owner of The Washington Post, which routinely publishes opinion pieces that criticize Amazon and reports and investigations that cast the company in a negative light.
But Carney instead began sniping at individual reporters with a series of attacks ranging from the evoking of Watergate journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward to calling a reporter an “adolescent” for using the phrase “no offense.” Carney also touted his journalism career, which spanned more than two decades across outlets like The Miami Herald and Time Magazine, as a reason why he can speak with authority on media criticism.
Here’s a selection of Carney’s tweets, captured for posterity by BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac, who was the among the many Carney took aim at:
It’s even funnier when you think about how this guy is getting paid millions as an Amazon SVP and just can’t log off. pic.twitter.com/5bfJ4vlKJz— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) February 11, 2020
Carney also claimed in follow-up tweets that Sanders’ criticism of Amazon regarding its minimum wage had nothing to do with the company’s decision. “I’m saying we agreed with [Bernie Sanders] at the time but acted because because it was the right thing to do for our employees, not because he called for it. People call for a lot of things,” Carney tweeted. Carney also did acknowledge in his op-ed that Sanders’ support “didn’t last long.”
But the Sanders anecdote, as well as the op-ed headline, provided Carney a springboard to promote what he sees as Amazon’s altruism. “Still, [Sanders’] call at least recognized a reality often forgotten or ignored in debates about the role a company like ours can and should play in the economy,” Carney writes of the positive effect Amazon’s wage hike has had. Later in the op-ed, he concludes that Amazon’s critics “will at times have good ideas about how we, and other major companies, can do both more and better.”