Jeff Bezos Confronts National Inquirer
The world’s richest man, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, has accused the owner of a US gossip magazine of trying to blackmail him over lewd pictures. He said the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc (AMI), wanted him to stop investigating how they had obtained his private messages.
Bezos and his wife Mackenzie said they were divorcing last month. Hours later the magazine published details, including private messages, of an extramarital affair.
What does Bezos say?
In a stunning blog post on Thursday, Bezos posted an email he said had been sent to his intermediaries by AMI’s representatives threatening to publish “intimate photos” of him and his lover, former TV host Lauren Sanchez.
The billionaire, who also owns the Washington Post newspaper, said AMI had wanted him to make a “false public statement” that the National Enquirer’s coverage of him and his mistress was not politically motivated.
According to emails included by Bezos in his blog, an AMI lawyer proposed on Wednesday that the photos would not be published in return for a public statement “affirming that [Bezos and his team] have no knowledge or basis” to suspect such a motive.
“Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail,” wrote Bezos, “I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.”
Why does he mention Trump?
Bezos said his ownership of the Washington Post was a “complexifier” for him because he had made enemies of “certain powerful people”, including President Trump, who is a friend of AMI’s boss, David Pecker. AMI recently admitted it had coordinated with the Trump presidential campaign to pay a Playboy model $150,000 in hush money to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.
Bezos notes in his blog post how the publisher had confessed to the so-called “catch and kill” deal to bury Karen McDougal’s politically embarrassing story. AMI’s agreement to co-operate with federal authorities means it will not face criminal charges over the payments, Manhattan prosecutors announced in December.
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen – who facilitated the hush money at the direction, he says, of Trump – has already admitted violating campaign finance laws.
What about Bezos’ reputation?
The Amazon boss did not try to hide the potential for embarrassment, writing “of course I don’t want personal photos published” and noting what he called “AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges”.
“But,” he continued, “I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”
His blog contained itemized details of 10 pictures in an email from the magazine’s editor, Dylan Howard, who said they had been “obtained during our newsgathering”. New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow alleged that he “and at least one other prominent journalist” had been subject to similar threats from AMI.
Bezos said: “AMI’s claim of newsworthiness is that the photos are necessary to show Amazon shareholders that my business judgment is terrible”. But the Amazon boss countered that the firm’s results “speak for themselves”.
Dylan Howard’s name, along with those of two National Enquirer reporters, appeared on a story the magazine published on 9 January containing alleged details of Bezos’ affair with Sanchez.
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