Yes, you read that right. Donald Trump is taking revenge after it was reported that the Washington Post, a national news publication, is assigning 20 reporters to cover the presumptive Republican nominee. This is nothing out of the ordinary, but The Donald replied with characteristic empty bravado, and blatantly false allegations of antitrust violations.
On Thursday night, Trump unleashed allegations that Jeff Bezos, who owns both the Washington Post and the retail website Amazon.com, was breaking anti-trust law.
“Every hour we’re getting calls from reporters from the Washington Post asking ridiculous questions and I will tell you, this is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos who controls Amazon,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. Then, The Donald made his allegation: “Amazon is getting away with murder tax-wise.”
Trump said that Bezos is “using the Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed.” Due to this special treatment, The Donald says that Bezos is “worried about” him, and is using the Post “as a tool for political power against me.”
Trump revealed his tendency toward conspiracy theories:
I just heard, they’re taking these really bad stories, I mean they’re wrong, I wouldn’t even say bad, they’re wrong and in many cases they have no proper information and they’re putting them together, they’re slopping them together and they’re going to do a book and the book is going to be all false stuff up because the stories are so wrong and the reporters, I mean one after another. So what they’re doing is — he’s using that as a political instrument to try and stop antitrust; which he thinks I believe he’s antitrust, another word’s what he’s got it’s a monopoly and he wants to make sure I don’t get in.
So it’s one of those things but I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what — what he’s doing’s wrong and the people are …. the whole system is rigged, you see a case like that, the whole system is rigged — whether it’s Hillary or whether it’s Bezos. He’s using the Washington Post which is peanuts, he’s using that for political purposes to save Amazon in terms of taxes and in terms of antitrust.
While it is true that Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, bought the Washington Post at a low price compared to his vast fortune, there is little evidence that he bought the newspaper to gain political influence. He did not replace the paper’s top editor, Martin Baron, or the editorial page editor or the main columnists. If anything, the paper’s bias is slightly more conservative, as the paper hired former National Review reporter Robert Costa.
In December of last year, the Wall Street Journal published a report of Bezos’ effect on the Post, and it found the tech magnate’s influence to loom large, but not in politics. “His focus on customer experience has become a near mandate within the news operation,” wrote Lukas Alpert and Jack Marshall.
They quote publisher Fred Ryan, who explicitly said Bezos “does not get involved in the journalism except to encourage us to hire the best journalists that we can.” Rather, “he has really focused on the technology and customer side, which has been one of the hallmarks of Amazon. Our engineers have an open line to him and he has made his expertise available to us anytime.”
Next Page: Worse, The Donald’s allegations of tax evasion couldn’t be more false.
Worse, it seems like The Donald’s antitrust allegations are the opposite of the truth. As Vox’s Matthew Yglesias pointed out, “Trump’s talking point that Amazon is seeking political influence in order to avoid paying taxes is badly outdated.” Amazon actually did gain an edge over other retailers by not collecting and paying sales taxes, for a while. Then state governments changed their laws, and now fully 25 states (covering 77 percent of the American population) make Amazon collect taxes.
In 2013, the online retail giant actually sent a letter thanking U.S. senators for proposing a bill that would force online retailers to pay state and local sales taxes. Contrary to Trump’s declaration, Amazon wants the government to force internet retailers to pay taxes. Amazon is so big that most states are already making the company pay taxes, while smaller companies are able to skirt the enforcement.
As Yglesias pointed out, “if Donald Trump had started talking about a proposal to change antitrust law in a way that would be bad for Amazon, and then suddenly a legion of Washington Post reporters showed up covering Trump, that would be suspicious,” but this is the opposite of what actually happened.
The Washington Post has long covered American politics, and it is staffing up to cover The Donald because — oh, I don’t know, he might be the presumptive Republican nominee. Trump, a political neophyte, thinks this is an attack on him, so he responds with antitrust allegations.