Amazon founder Jeff Bezos donated $100 million to the Barack Obama Foundation, the charity said Monday, calling it the biggest individual contribution it’s ever received. Bezos’s only caveat is that the foundation name a plaza at the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago after Georgia congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, who died in July, 2020.
“Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” Bezos said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”
Also on Monday, New York University’s NYU Langone Health medical center announced it had gotten $166 million from Bezos, which followed last week’s gift of $96.2 million from the low-earth orbiter to several groups fighting the homelessness crisis.
Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett said in a statement, “We intend to use Jeff’s gift to help support all of our programs. It will certainly pay for the plaza, and we’ll have funds also available for our endowment, which will allow the programs to go on in perpetuity.”
Worth an estimated $207 billion—second only to his fellow pretend astronaut, $300 billionaire Tesla boss Elon Musk—Bezos has actually been seen as rather stingy compared to other people who are rich beyond all human decency. For instance, there’s his ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott. Although Scott has only $60 billion to her name, she had given away $8 billion in just 11 months as of June.
Bezos’s big giveaway announcement is just in time for all that warm holiday PR, sure. It also comes a week after John Oliver presented Bezos with a year-end gift of his own—in the form of a national sick burn.
In the season finale of Last Week Tonight, Oliver opened the show’s half-hour look at the pernicious ways mega-corps bust unions in America by focusing on Amazon’s myriad of reported labor abuses—including the one Amazon admits to, which is that workers are often forced to urinate in bottles due to life-crushing quotas.
The segment features the dystopian leader stating, “We don’t believe we need a union to be an intermediary between us and our employees, but of course at the end of the day it’s always the employees’ choice, and that’s how it should be.”
“Yeah, I don’t know about you,” Oliver mused, “but I’m not personally comforted by hearing one the richest men on earth say, ‘It’s your choice.’ No matter the context, all I can hear is, ‘Spear or arrow. How would you prefer to be hunted? It’s your choice.”
According to the news site Puck, which first reported Bezos’s donation, rumors about it have been floating in political circles “for months,” and it surprised some insiders because Bezos and Obama have barely been in the same room together. The bestowment, Puck reports, was put together by Obama’s former press secretary and Bezos’s current political consigliere, Jay Carney.
Jarrett tells the site that while Bezos and Obama are not close, they “have seen each other socially from time to time.”
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