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Bezos' fight with Biden: A timeline of their Twitter feud over inflation

·Senior Producer and Writer
·6-min read

Jeff Bezos' Twitter feud with the Biden White House stretched into its second week Monday after the White House pushed back against the Amazon founder's recent tweets regarding inflation.

The unlikely feud began Friday with a tweet from Bezos accusing the president of "misdirection" when he asserted that forcing corporations to "pay their fair share" would bring down inflation. For its part, the White House says the dispute stems from Biden’s recent warm embrace of Amazon (AMZN) labor organizers.

Either way, the spat represents a turnabout in the relationship between Biden and Bezos, who heartily congratulated Biden when he defeated Donald Trump in 2020. The fight with Bezos, who's currently the world's third richest person, could also be a harbinger of an even more antagonistic relationship between Democrats and billionaires as the midterm elections draw closer.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 05:  Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos delivers remarks during an event announcing commitments from more than 50 companies that have pledged to hire and train veterans and military spouses in the State Dining Room at the White House May 5, 2016 in Washington, DC. On the fifth anniversary of first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's military hiring initiative Joining Forces, Bezos announced a commitment by his company to hire 25,000 more military veterans in the next five years.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos visited the White House in 2016 for an event on veterans and military spouses co-hosted by then second lady Jill Biden. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“It's not a huge mystery why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth opposes an economic agenda that is for the middle class, that cuts some of the biggest costs families face, fights inflation for the long haul,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

Bezos had a very negative relationship with Trump over the years on issues like the billionaire's ownership of The Washington Post and Amazon’s relationship with the U.S. Postal Service. But even then, Bezos has largely avoided direct political commentary.

That has clearly changed. Here’s a timeline of the ongoing back and forth:

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: President Donald Trump speaks with Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, and Jeff Bezos, Chief Executive Officer of Amazon during an American Technology Council roundtable in the State Dinning Room at the White House in Washington, DC on Monday, June 19, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Jeff Bezos during a White House visit in 2017 as then-President Donald Trump and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella look on. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

May 5 — An Amazon organizer visits the White House

In early May, Christian Smalls visited the White House as part of a group of labor leaders. Smalls, who's known for organizing Amazon workers in Staten Island, wore an "Eat the Rich" jacket and garnered this compliment from Biden: “You’re my kind of trouble.”

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh attended that meeting and recounted the mood during a Yahoo Finance interview. “There is definitely a drive here in this country and an excitement and a new energy” for more organized labor efforts, Walsh said.

Amazon has fought hard against unionization efforts. When the New York effort led by Smalls succeeded earlier this year, the company said it was “disappointed.”

Friday, May 13 — The first tweet

Bezos has become more vocal on Twitter recently, notably gaining notice for antagonizing Elon Musk over his ties to China. The billionaire has also commented on the market downturn; his space company Blue Origin; and Amazon’s 25th anniversary.

On May 13, responding to a tweet from @JoeBiden that didn’t mention him or Amazon, Bezos objected to “mushing” together the issues of inflation and Biden’s long-time push for higher corporate taxes.

Democrats still hold out hope of resuscitating their stymied “Build Back Better” effort in the coming months with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) recently saying that a minimum tax on corporations remains on table.

The tweet from Bezos got widespread notice. While Amazon organizer Smalls told the billionaire to stop crying, the White House didn't respond right away.

Sunday, May 15 — A second tweet and a White House response

Bezos followed up on Sunday morning with a second missive asserting that Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat who blocked Build Back Better, "saved" Democrats from themselves.

“Misdirection doesn’t help the country,” Bezos added.

This time, he got a response from the White House with Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates, who sent reporters a statement later that day that said “it doesn’t require a huge leap to figure out why” Bezos might oppose policies "asking the richest corporations and taxpayers to pay their fair share."

“It’s also unsurprising that this tweet comes after the president met with labor organizers, including Amazon employees,” Bates added.

Monday, May 16 - Larry Summers weighs in

By Monday morning, a former Treasury Secretary weighed in. Larry Summers — sometimes a Biden ally — said Bezos was “mostly wrong in his recent attack.” In fact, Summers said, it's fine to raise taxes to combat inflation. Still, Summers also noted that Washington's stimulus has contributed to inflation.

Later in the day, Bezos jumped in again to accuse the White House of misdirection yet again and to say Biden would have exacerbated inflation if he had been able to pass his full agenda.

"Look, a squirrel!" he wrote mockingly, suggesting the White House had tried to distract people from the actual causes of inflation.

Meanwhile, Bates kept punching back in a thread highlighting Amazon's previous support for elements of the Build Back Better bill, the Summers tweet, and claims that future spending wouldn't increase the deficit.

Biden himself has not weighed in since his initial tweet, but both sides seem happy to keep fighting. Bezos is clearly ready to engage — even as he draws less than favorable reviews of his posting skills compared to fellow billionaire Elon Musk — and Biden seems more than happy to be seen as the enemy of billionaires as election season draws closer.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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