Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has accused the owner of US gossip magazine the National Enquirer of blackmail and extortion for threatening to publish “intimate photographs” of him and his lover.
The world’s richest man split from his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, last month, shortly before the National Enquirer published intimate text messages between Bezos and former TV host Lauren Sanchez.
In an extraordinary blog post on Medium last night, Bezos said that the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc (AMI), wanted him to stop investigating how the publication acquired those texts.
“I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse”
According to the Amazon CEO, the Enquirer also wanted Bezos’ investigator to stop looking into AMI CEO and chairman David Pecker’s alleged business ties to Saudi Arabia.
“Something unusual happened to me yesterday. Actually, for me it wasn’t just unusual — it was a first. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought,” he wrote.
The billionaire went on to explain how AMI wanted him to “make a false public statement” that the National Enquirer’s coverage was not politically motivated or “influenced by political forces”.
AMI representatives allegedly threatened to publish the compromising pictures if Bezos did not agree. If he did, they would keep the photographs to hand to ensure his future cooperation.
“Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail,” wrote Mr Bezos, “I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.”
According to Bezos, AMI says the pictures are newsworthy because they show Amazon shareholders that Bezos has poor business judgement.
Bezos countered by listing the success of Amazon under his leadership, which is one of the most valuable in the world and last year became the second company in history to reach a trillion dollar market cap.
Jeff Bezos, National Enquirer and Donald Trump
In the Medium post, Bezos mentions that his ownership of the Washington Post has resulted in some powerful people “wrongly concluding I am their enemy”.
He goes on to single out US President Donald Trump, a long-time friend of David Pecker.
In December, Pecker admitted that the Enquirer coordinated with the Trump campaign to pay a Playboy model $150,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump as part of a so-called ‘catch and kill’, in which the publisher buys the sole rights to a story with no intention of publishing.
Pecker recently entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice as part of a wider investigation into the Trump campaign.
Bezos went on to say that the emails he received from AMI representatives “cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism”.
“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but 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.”
I’ve written a post about developments with the National Enquirer and its parent company, AMI. You can find it here: https://t.co/G1ykJAPPwy
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) February 7, 2019
The National Enquirer/AMI emails
Here is an email posted by Jeff Bezos that details the nature of the intimate photographs, which appears to be from AMI’s chief content officer, Howard Dylan.
From: Howard, Dylan [firstname.lastname@example.org] (Chief Content Officer, AMI)
Sent: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 3:33 PM
To: Martin Singer (litigation counsel for Mr. de Becker)
Subject:. Jeff Bezos & Ms. Lauren Sanchez Photos
CONFIDENTIAL & NOT FOR DISTRIBIUTION
I am leaving the office for the night. I will be available on my cell — 917 XXX-XXXX.
However, in the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering.
In addition to the “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’” — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:
· Mr. Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.
· Ms. Sanchez response — a photograph of her smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.
· A shirtless Mr. Bezos holding his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring. He’s wearing either tight black cargo pants or shorts — and his semi-erect manhood is penetrating the zipper of said garment.
· A full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks, with his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring.
· A selfie of Mr. Bezos fully clothed.
· A full-length scantily-clad body shot with short trunks.
· A naked selfie in a bathroom — while wearing his wedding ring. Mr. Bezos is wearing nothing but a white towel — and the top of his pubic region can be seen.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a two-piece red bikini with gold detail dress revealing her cleavage.
It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.
Here is another, allegedly from AMI lawyer Jon Fine, which outlines the company’s terms.
From: Fine, Jon [email@example.com] (Deputy General Counsel, AMI)
Sent: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 5:57 PM
To: Martin Singer (Mr de Becker’s attorney)
Subject: Re: EXTERNAL* RE: Bezos et al / American Media et al
Here are our proposed terms:
1. A full and complete mutual release of all claims that American Media, on the one hand, and Jeff Bezos and Gavin de Becker (the “Bezos Parties”), on the other, may have against each other.
2. A public, mutually-agreed upon acknowledgment from the Bezos Parties, released through a mutually-agreeable news outlet, affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility.
3. AM agrees not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos (the “Unpublished Materials”).
4. AM affirms that it undertook no electronic eavesdropping in connection with its reporting and has no knowledge of such conduct.
5. The agreement is completely confidential.
6. In the case of a breach of the agreement by one or more of the Bezos Parties, AM is released from its obligations under the agreement, and may publish the Unpublished Materials.
7. Any other disputes arising out of this agreement shall first be submitted to JAMS mediation in California
Deputy General Counsel, Media
American Media, LLC