The executive editor of The Washington Post hit back at Sen. Bernie Sanders’ suggestion that the paper’s coverage of the presidential candidate is linked to its owner’s business interests, calling the accusation a “conspiracy theory.”
Marty Baron responded in a statement Monday evening to Sanders’ words during a stump speech earlier in the day. While delivering remarks in New Hampshire, the independent Vermont senator, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, suggested there was a link between the coverage he receives in the Post and his rhetoric toward Amazon.
“I talk about (Amazon’s taxes) all of the time,” Sanders said in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. “And then I wonder why The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, doesn’t write particularly good articles about me. I don’t know why.”
In a statement provided to CNN on Monday evening, Baron responded, saying, “Sen. Sanders is a member of a large club of politicians – of every ideology – who complain about their coverage.”
“Contrary to the conspiracy theory the senator seems to favor, Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence, as our reporters and editors can attest,” Baron added.
Earlier this year, Baron told The New York Times that Bezos “has never gotten involved in our reporting or our final stories.” Baron added at the time, “People surmise that it must be difficult to cover Jeff and Amazon. But we’ve gone five-and-a-half years with his ownership, and he hasn’t once intervened in any way.”
Sanders connected Bezos’ ownership of the Post to its coverage. But on Monday night in North Conway, New Hampshire, he also singled out The New York Times.
“We have pointed out over and over again that Amazon made $10 billion in profits last year. You know how much they paid in taxes? You got it, zero! Any wonder why The Washington Post is not one of my great supporters, I wonder why? New York Times not much better,” Sanders said.
He did not draw a line connecting his criticism of the Times’ coverage to its owner.
Sanders has been a frequent critic of the news media, and while he has not used inflammatory language similar to President Donald Trump, who has called the press “the enemy of the people,” his recent comments – and those from officials on his campaign – have become increasingly pointed.
At an event in Orient, Iowa, on Sunday, Sanders made distinctions between his criticisms of the media and Trump’s outright attacks.
“We’ve got to be careful. We have a authoritarian-type President right now who does not believe in our Constitution, who is trying to intimidate the media and so forth, and that’s not what we do,” Sanders said in response to a member of the audience asking him what can be done about manipulative media.
“But I think what we have to be concerned about in terms of media is that you have a small number of very, very large corporate interests who control a lot of what the people in this country see, hear and read. They have their agenda. That’s what they want,” Sanders added.
Sanders has in the past defended the media against Trump’s rhetoric.
On a call with reporters Monday morning, senior adviser Jeff Weaver suggested the media was not accurately reporting on Sanders’ standing with primary voters.
“There seems to be a direct correlation between the media coverage of polls and Bernie Sanders’ specific standing in those polls,” Weaver said. “The better the number is in the poll, the less coverage it receives. And the worse he does, the more it receives.”
A memo released earlier in the day – before Sanders’ comments on the stump – addressing the “state of the race” began with a jab at the press: “While you may not know it from recent media coverage, Bernie Sanders is on a positive trajectory in his campaign for president as evidenced by multiple data points,” wrote Sanders pollsters Ben Tulchin and Ben Krompak, of Tulchin Research.