WASHINGTON – Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos on Thursday called President Donald Trump's criticism of journalists "dangerous," saying he will consistently stick up for the role of media in democracy.
Bezos, whose companies are a frequent target of Trump's criticism, didn't mention Trump by name but assailed the president's attacks on the media.
"It is a mistake for any elected official, in my opinion – I don’t think this is a very out-there opinion – to attack media and journalists," he told interviewer David Rubenstein in an on-stage interview at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.
Trump has repeatedly accused legitimate journalism of being "fake news." He has also baselessly accused Bezos of using his ownership of the Post as a vehicle for lobbying on behalf of Amazon, which he alleges does not pay enough taxes.
"I do defend the Post," Bezos said. "I don’t feel the need to defend Amazon."
Bezos said that public figures need to get used to bad headlines as a natural part of being in the spotlight.
Rubenstein asked Bezos whether he has discussed Bezos' criticism directly with the president.
"I’ll keep my conversations with the president to myself," he said. "But, yes, I’ve had a couple of conversations with him."
Related: An Amazon HQ2 timeline
Bezos made the appearance the same day he and his wife, MacKenzie, announced a $2 billion fund to help homeless families and create preschools. He said he would continue to give away money over time and invest in his rocket company, Blue Origin, as a vehicle for colonizing space.
Bezos made the appearance in Washington amid speculation that D.C., northern Virginia and southern Maryland are among the leading contenders for Amazon's second headquarters.
Seattle-based Amazon has announced that all three areas – which are located within a commuter's drive of the Post and a home Bezos is building – are among 20 regions under consideration for what the company has called HQ2. The second headquarters will eventually have some 50,000 jobs.
Bezos declined to provide any hints on the process but said the decision would be made in 2018.
"We’ve made tremendous progress," he said. "The team is working hard on it."
Bezos also said:
• Blue Origin has a budget of nearly $1 billion this year.
• His title as the world's richest person wasn't a life goal. "I can assure you I have never sought that title. It was fine being the second wealthiest person in the world. That worked fine," he said.
• He's a customer of Amazon, and the company doesn't always get his order right. "Yeah, I have problems sometimes," he said. When that happens, he said he tries to address the root of the problem.
• Amazon can handle regulatory scrutiny that many speculate will come as the company grows. But he also cautioned against "vilifying" big companies, saying they can accomplish much.
"All big institutions of any kind are going to be and should be examined, scrutinized, inspected," he said. "This is just normal. It's actually healthy. It's good. We want to live in a society where people are worried about big institutions."
Amazon, he said, can deal with it. "We are so inventive that whatever regulations are promulgated, however it works, that will not stop us from serving customers," he said.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter, @NathanBomey.