Amazon’s top public-relations boss sought to discredit a New York Times expose, posting an article on the website Medium that accuses the paper’s reporters of willfully ignoring context when it came to quoting the Seattle-based company’s accusers.
Jay Carney, Amazon senior vice president for global corporate affairs, took issue with perhaps the most enduring quote from the article about Amazon’s bruising work culture. A former employee said, “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
Carney, who previously served as President Barack Obama’s chief spokesman, wrote that the employee “had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records.” Carney added that when the company confronted that employee with the evidence, “he admitted it and resigned immediately.”
In a separate Medium post, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet repudiates Carney’s claims. He notes that the former Amazon employee “disputes Amazon’s account of his departure,” saying that “he was never confronted with allegations of personally fraudulent conduct or falsifying records, nor did he admit to that.”
Baquet stood by the article, noting that many of the comments The Times received regarding the piece buttressed the reporting. “(A)ny reading of the responses leaves no doubt that this was an accurate portrait,” Baquet said.
The article went into significant detail about Amazon’s tough workplace, offering up anecdotes from former employees who suffered from cancer and miscarriages and said they had been unfairly evaluated and nudged out of their jobs.
When The New York Times published the piece in August (which also ran in The Seattle Times), Amazon founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos sent a note to employees saying he did not recognize the “soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard.”
Carney’s article also takes issue with The Times’ account of an employee evaluation tool, which the paper suggested fueled workplace backstabbing. Carney quotes positive comments about the workers who made the claims in The Times piece and writes that the tool “is rarely used and, when it is, most feedback is positive.”
Carney said the company presented its “findings” to The Times several weeks ago, hoping for a correction. The Times, though, hasn’t issued one.
Separately, Amazon director Tom Alberg last week told The Seattle Times that he felt the piece was “very bad journalism” in which the reporters were pursuing an agenda.
“I think there’s not a question that people at Amazon work very hard,” Alberg said. “I think you are going to have poor managers at any organization, and people need to uncover that and take action. I think companies work at that, but so it’s just too bad it wasn’t a more insightful article to get at the issues.”