UN chief criticizes Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson for 'joyriding to space while millions go hungry on Earth'

·3 min read
Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson
From left: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson. Patrick Pluel/Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images; Hollis Johnson/Insider
  • United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said billionaires created "a malady of mistrust."

  • He called Jeff Bezos' flight into space a sign of massive disparity between the rich and the poor.

  • Bezos has faced criticism in the past for the $5.5 billion he spent on his trip into outer space.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A United Nations chief criticized Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson on Tuesday.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told other world leaders during his opening remarks at the UN General Assembly that the billionaires' race to space demonstrated massive gaps between the poor and the uber-wealthy.

He said that a "malady of mistrust" was spreading across the globe as everyday people saw their rights curtailed and struggled to put food on the table. Guterres said, "Parents see a future for their children that looks even bleaker than the struggles of today." And at the same time, they see "billionaires joyriding to space while millions go hungry on Earth."

Spokespeople from the billionaires' space companies, Bezos' Blue Origin and Branson's Virgin Galactic, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

This summer, Bezos and Branson each flew into outer space on their own private rockets. Though the billionaires were only in space for a matter of moments, the trips cost billions of dollars and captured a worldwide audience.

At the time of their rocket launches, both billionaires received heavy criticism, as people called for the men to pay higher taxes. Sen. Elizabeth Warren took Bezos to task for the spaceflight after ProPublica reported that the Amazon founder didn't pay any income taxes for at least two years between 2006 and 2018.

"He's laughing at every person in America who actually paid taxes," Warren said.

Following his flight, Bezos thanked Amazon workers and gave away over $200 million in a pair of awards recognizing "courage and civility." He also acknowledged his critics.

Bezos said at the time that his critics were "mostly right." He added, "We have to do both. We have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to work on those and we also need to look to the future, we've always done that as a species and as a civilization."

Last week, Elon Musk's company SpaceX completed the world's first human spaceflight to orbit space with only private citizens on board. Though Musk has yet to go into space, he has also faced criticism for focusing some of his environmental efforts on outer space.

"I think we should spend the vast majority of our resources solving problems on Earth. Like, 99% plus of our economy should be dedicated to solving problems on Earth," Musk said in the first episode of the Netflix documentary about the flight. "But I think maybe something like 1%, or less than 1%, could be applied to extending life beyond Earth."

But Musk's driving force behind SpaceX's progress has long been plans for colonizing Mars. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

"If life is just about problems, what's the point of living," Musk said in the documentary.

The Inspiration4 mission also featured a fundraiser that raised over $200 million for St. Jude. Musk himself contributed $50 million.

Do you work for Blue Origin or SpaceX? Reach out to the reporter from a nonwork email at gkay@insider.com

Read The Associated Press' full story on Guterres' comments here.

Read the original article on Business Insider