Bezos urges ‘thick skin,’ not lawsuits, for public figures upset with media

Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosBiden criticizes Amazon for paying Jeff Bezos in corporate taxes Biden criticizes Amazon for paying Jeff Bezos in corporate taxes Hillicon Valley: YouTube under fire | FCC gets tough on robocalls | Maine governor signs strict privacy bill | Amazon says delivery drones coming in 'months' MORE said on Tuesday night that he didn’t think it was appropriate for someone to fund a lawsuit with the purpose of shutting down media outlets with which they have a personal grudge.

His comments came in response to a question about Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who is funding legal challenges to Gawker because he does not like their coverage. Bezos said he didn’t want to explicitly address the details of the Thiel case but nonetheless pushed back against his tactics.

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“You always have to remember, this country has the best free speech protections in the world because of the Constitution but also because of our cultural norms — and you don’t want to erode those,” said Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, at an annual conference hosted by Recode. “You don’t want to create any kind of climate of fear or chill with respect to free speech norms.

“And the most important thing to remember about that is that beautiful speech doesn’t need protection. It’s ugly speech that needs protection.

“We don’t have to like it,” he added. “We don’t have to invite those people to our dinner parties, but you should let them say it."

Bezos also said the best way for public figures to deal with public criticism was by developing a “thick skin.”

Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and is an active Republican donor, said last week he was funding a lawsuit against Gawker Media filed by wrestler Terry Bollea, better known by his stage name, Hulk Hogan.

The investor took issue with the company’s coverage of Silicon Valley, which he called unfair and bullying. Almost a decade ago, the now-defunct Gawker Media site Valleywag published the first public discussion of Thiel’s sexuality in a post entitled “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.”