Skip to Content

Amazon’s Jay Carney rips New York Times report on company culture

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a news conference during the launch of Amazon's new tablets in New YorkAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a news conference during the launch of Amazon's new tablets in New York
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a news conference during the launch of Amazon's new tablets in New York, September 28, 2011. Photograph by Shannon Stapleton — Reuters

Amazon isn’t done responding to the New York Times’ scathing article on what it’s like to work at the e-commerce giant.

Following the report in August that painted Amazon (AMZN) as an unforgiving, competitive employer with downright mean management tactics, Amazon executives have scrambled to refute those accusations.

In a memo to staff, CEO Jeff Bezos said that he didn’t recognize the workplace described in the Times article and that any “callous management practices” like those cited in the piece should be reported to Amazon’s human resources department. Prior to Bezos’s response, Nick Ciubotariu, Amazon’s head of infrastructure development, defended his company on LinkedIn, arguing that “singling out several outliers to vilify an entire company does not represent truth in journalism.”

The latest rebuke comes two months after the story was published, and it aims at poking holes in the credibility of former Amazon employees who delivered some of the story’s most sensational anecdotes.

In a Medium post, Jay Carney, senior vice president of global corporate affairs at Amazon who’s also served as White House Press Secretary and a reporter for Time magazine (a publication of Time Inc., which is also the parent company of Fortune), took direct aim at former Amazon employee Bo Olson, who provided one of the article’s harshest zingers: “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”


Carney wrote that Times reporters Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld didn’t seek out—and therefore didn’t publish—key details about Olson’s brief tenure at Amazon, which Carney said “ended after an investigation revealed he had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records. When confronted with the evidence, he admitted it and resigned immediately.”

Olson did not immediately return Fortune‘s request for comment, but in his own Medium post responding to Carney, Times executive editor Dean Baquet said that Olson told the paper he disputes Amazon’s account of his departure; that Olson “was never confronted with allegations of personally fraudulent conduct or falsifying records, nor did he admit to that.”

Carney took similar jabs at other sources and anecdotes in the article and said that the Times reporters had failed to fulfill their duty to provide readers with full context: “Journalism 101 instructs that facts should be checked and sources should be vetted. When there are two sides of a story, a reader deserves to know them both.”

In his Medium response to Carney, Baquet called Kantor’s and Streitfeld’s story “an accurate portrait” of Amazon’s work environment that was based on interviews with more than a hundred current and former Amazon employees. While Carney’s post provides additional information about some of the Times‘ sources, Baquet said what Carney revealed “did not contradict what the former employees said in our story.” Instead, Baquet wrote, Carney “mostly asserted that there were no records of what the workers were describing. Of course, plenty of conversations and interactions occur in workplaces that are not documented in personnel files.”

Three days after the article’s publication in August, the New York Times’ own public editor delivered somewhat negative feedback on the article, saying it was “driven less by irrefutable proof than by generalization and anecdote. For such a damning result, presented with so much drama, that doesn’t seem like quite enough.” The public editor’s article does note that Baquet disagreed with that assessment.

The article has been updated to include Dean Baquet’s response.