Jeff Bezos tried to remain diplomatic, but the Amazon founder and Washington Post owner got real with a conference audience over the spat between Gawker and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel.
"As a public figure, the best defense to speech that you don't like about yourself is to develop a thick skin," he said at the Code conference after Recode founding editor Walt Mossberg asked his outlook on the controversy. "It's really the only effective defense. You can't stop it. You are going to be misunderstood."
Thiel is reported to have waged a decade-long war on the news site, including bankrolling a recent lawsuit by Hulk Hogan against Gawker. The site's chief Nick Denton called the whole fiasco a "Count of Monte Cristo revenge fantasy for billionaires" in an interview with CNBC last month.
Bezos didn't speak to the specifics of the dispute, but he did defend the U.S.'s strong history of defending free speech.
"If you absolutely can't tolerate critics, don't do anything new or interesting," he said. "Beautiful speech doesn't need to be protected. Ugly speech needs to be protected."