Amazon's Jeff Bezos said Trump's behavior 'erodes our democracy around the edges'

Bezos: Trump comments erode our democracy
Bezos: Trump comments erode our democracy

A confident leader would embrace scrutiny — something Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump hasn't done, said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.

"One of the things that makes this country as amazing as it is, is that we are allowed to criticize and scrutinize our elected leaders," Bezos said. "And there are other countries where if you criticize the elected leader you might go to jail — or worse, you may just disappear. And the appropriate thing for a presidential candidate to do is to say, 'I am running for the highest office in the most important country in the world. Please scrutinize me.'"

Bezos spoke at Vanity Fair's 2016 New Establishment Summit in San Francisco, where he was honored for his role in innovation. CNBC has reached out the Trump campaign for comment.

Bezos and Trump clashed earlier this year over Bezo's ownership of The Washington Post. In an unprecedented move, Trump banned about a dozen news organizations, including the Post, from access to news conferences and campaign events earlier this year.

At the time, Bezos said his instinct was to address it lightly on Twitter — but that was a mistake, he said. Bezos said that in view of Trump's statement that he may not concede if he loses, or that he might lock up opponent Hillary Clinton if he wins, the GOP candidate is "erodes our democracy around the edges."

"To try and chill the media and threaten retribution, retaliation — which is what he has done in a number of cases to people involved in the media — is not appropriate," Bezos said. "We have freedom of speech in this country, written into the Constitution. But except for our norms and our behaviors — the stories we tell ourselves as a nation— it's just a piece of paper."

Bezos also zeroed in on Peter Thiel, fellow dot-com magnate who has donated $1.25 million to Trump's campaign. Companies like Facebook and Y Combinator have faced backlash for keeping Thiel onboard through the Trump campaign.

Bezos said it is too divisive to say, "If you have this political opinion, you can't sit on my board."

"Peter Thiel is a contrarian, first and foremost," Bezos said. "You just have to remember that contrarians are usually wrong."