Home News William Shatner’s inspiring spaceflight overshadows exposé of Blue Origin’s culture

William Shatner’s inspiring spaceflight overshadows exposé of Blue Origin’s culture

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It was undeniably exciting to watch William Shatner blast off into space.

It was a brilliant bit of marketing by Jeff Bezos to have Captain Kirk himself on board for yesterday’s second and highly successful Blue Origin spaceflight. The media were riveted by the 90-year-old former Star Trek commander, who is in amazing shape, talking about the enormity of the leaving the thin blue atmosphere for the deathly blackness of space. When he put his hands on Bezos’ shoulders, hugged and thanked him for “the most profound experience I can imagine,” it was a triumph for the Amazon founder–who gave everyone a champagne shower–and his rocket company.

And the outfit narrates and produces it, with its debriefing of the astronauts in the West Texas desert, in a way that Richard Branson, who beat Bezos to space, did not.

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But there’s another Blue Origin story this week—one that’s basically received no coverage on television.

It’s about one official who resigned, writing a long memo to Bezos: “Our current culture is toxic to our success.”

It’s about a corporate culture that has “become dysfunctional, resulting in low morale and high turnover, significant delays across several major programs.”

It’s about an “authoritarian bro culture,” as one ex-employee put it, leading to “condescending, sometimes humiliating, comments and harassment toward some women.”

And the most remarkable sentence in the story:

“Bezos, who recently stepped down as chief executive of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.”

Yep, this fiercely negative investigative report was published by Jeff Bezos’ own newspaper.

It speaks volumes about the Post’s approach to journalism that it’s willing to take on the boss so dramatically. And I must admit it says something about Bezos’ hands-off approach to the paper he bought from the Graham family eight years ago that there was no interference.

The indictment, based on more than 20 interviews, is pretty searing. One insider is quoted as saying: “The C-suite is out of touch with the rank-and-file pretty severely. It’s very dysfunctional. It’s condescending. It’s demoralizing, and what happens is we can’t make progress and end up with huge delays.”

Dan Abrams, on his NewsNation show, offered theories on why journalists are so easy on one of the world’s richest men:

“He’s one of them — us owning a beloved media property, he’s progressive, and — this one’s a little conspiratorial — but he’s super-wealthy and can personally drive massive ad buys.”

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Blue Origin said in a statement that the company takes “all claims seriously and we have no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. Where we substantiate allegations of misconduct under our anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policy we take the appropriate action — up to and including termination of employment.”

Bezos, interestingly enough, wouldn’t comment to his own paper. Perhaps he was too busy hanging out with Shatner.

This undated photo made available by Blue Origin in October 2021 shows, from left, Chris Boshuizen, William Shatner, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries. (Blue Origin via AP)

This undated photo made available by Blue Origin in October 2021 shows, from left, Chris Boshuizen, William Shatner, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries. (Blue Origin via AP)
(Blue Origin via AP)

Meanwhile, I’m a bit stunned that a few conservative commentators are defending Jon Gruden, who resigned as the Las Vegas Raiders coach after the New York Times disclosed some of his horribly offensive emails.

After all, this high-level NFL executive and former ESPN analyst once called Commissioner Roger Goodell a “f—-t” and a “clueless anti football p—y,” and said that Goodell should not have pressured Jeff Fisher, then the coach of the Rams, to draft “q—rs.” And he traded pictures of topless cheerleaders.

For those who say oh, these are old emails, Gruden wrote them between the ages of 47 and 54, some as recently as 2017. As for the argument that some of these slurs used to be common, haven’t all adults had to learn they are unacceptable?

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As Post sportswriter Sally Jenkins says, “There is a sense that Gruden was not just speaking for himself in those emails but that he’s a representative NFL man in his blithe bigotry, that he is very much the football establishment in his talk of ‘queers’ and fat-lipped Black men.. And it’s going to be a challenge for everyone in and around the league who would like to separate themselves.”

But here’s the thing: Gruden, who has apologized, sent these missives to the former president of the Washington Football Team, among others. Lots of people in the league must have known about them but no one turned him in. Which is why the National Football League has a very big problem.

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