The dispute between Jeff Bezos and the National Enquirer just took an appropriately tabloid-ish turn.
In a detailed essay posted to Medium, the 55-year-old Amazon founder and owner of The Washington Post alleged that The National Enquirer recently threatened to release racy photos of Bezos and girlfriend Lauren Sanchez. Bezos described the attempt as “extortion and blackmail.”
“I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Bezos wrote. “Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought. I’m glad they thought that, because it emboldened them to put it all in writing.” He added: “I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.”
Bezos then printed an email exchange, purportedly from Dylan Howard, an employee at American Media, Inc. (AMI), the company that owns the National Enquirer. In the message, Howard notes the publication had acquired several potentially embarrassing photos of Bezos and Sanchez, including “a full-length scantily-clad body shot [of Bezos] with short trunks” and “a naked selfie in a bathroom—while wearing his wedding ring.”
AMI chairman and CEO David Pecker is a long-time friend of President Donald Trump. Last year, Pecker received immunity for testifying in a federal investigation into his role in payments made to two women who claimed to have had affairs with the president.
Pecker has also sought to forge deep connections with businesses in Saudi Arabia. Bezos said he’d been informed that Pecker was “apoplectic” about the Post‘s recent investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “We were approached, verbally at first, with an offer,” Bezos wrote. “They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation.”
Instead, Bezos decided to pre-emptively publish descriptions of the embarrassing materials himself.
Bezos’ missive is the latest in a lengthy feud between the Amazon honcho and the popular supermarket tabloid. Last month, after months of research, the Enquirer published an investigation detailing an affair between Bezos and Sanchez, a news personality and pilot. The report, which included several steamy texts between the couple, was released shortly after Bezos announced he’d split from MacKenzie Bezos, his wife of 25 years.
Earlier this week, the Bezos-owned Washington Post published its own investigation into the Enquirer‘s investigation, trying to determine whether the piece was a “political hit” on Bezos, and how his personal messages were compromised.
The Post‘s coverage apparently didn’t please representatives of the Enquirer. In his essay, Bezos also included an email purportedly sent by an American Media lawyer, demanding a “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.”
Bezos has strived in the past to distance himself from the work of the Post, in order to maintain the paper’s objectivity. He notably published his column not in the newspaper, but on the independently owned website Medium.
But Bezos acknowledged that his ownership of the paper “is a complexifier for me,” adding: “It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy. President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets.”
Still, Bezos wrote, he was determined not to back down on his dealings with tabloid. “Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here,” he wrote. “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” He ended his essay with a determined salvo: “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”
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