Celebrities, politicians, and influencers criticized Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos after he thanked company employees and customers for the launch of his company Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket on Tuesday.
Bezos launched 62 miles into suborbital space, becoming the second billionaire to make the trek. He thanked every “Amazon employee and every Amazon customer” for making his trip possible during a press conference, prompting backlash from some online commentators.
“Jeff Bezos is charging someone $28 million for 11 minutes in space, which sounds just about right for the owner of Whole Foods,” said former television host Conan O’Brien in a tweet.
Jeff Bezos is charging someone $28 million for 11 minutes in space, which sounds just about right for the owner of Whole Foods.
— Conan O’Brien (@ConanOBrien) July 20, 2021
O’Brien was referencing the $28 million price tag an anonymous auction winner bid to score a flight on Bezos’s rocket Tuesday. The winner withdrew from their spot before the launch, and the billionaire selected Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, 18, to join, making him the youngest astronaut to venture into suborbital space.
Bezos and other billionaires have faced criticism for “joyrides” to space. Some have said they should invest more in businesses on Earth before exploring the galaxy.
“They’re largely right,” Bezos said in a Monday interview when asked about the backlash. “We have to do both.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, also criticized Bezos for thanking his company workers and consumers who buy Amazon products.
“Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing,” Warren said on Twitter.
Amazon has paid income taxes at typically lower rates aided by deductions and incentives related to investment, research, and employee compensation. Bezos sided in favor of President Joe Biden‘s proposed 7-percentage-point corporate tax hike in April.
Bezos wore a cowboy hat during a press conference after the launch. Host of The View Meghan McCain tweeted, “Jeff Bezos cannot pull off a cowboy hat.”
During the flight, former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat, tweeted, “Bezos, please stay up there. Do the world a favor.”
“The only problem I have with Bezos’ Blue Origin space rocket ship into outer space is that it’s going to come back,” she added.
The only problem I have with Bezos’ Blue Origin space rocket ship into outer space is that it’s going to come back.
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) July 20, 2021
CNN’s Van Jones thanked Bezos for awarding him a $100 million philanthropic award Tuesday, saying, “You bet on me, and I appreciate it.”
The awarded grant goes to recipients who can use the money toward charities and nonprofit organizations of their choice.
Bezos, 57, was joined for the launch by his brother, Mark Bezos, 53; aerospace pioneer Wally Funk, 82; and Daemen.