The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, has said he was the target of “extortion and blackmail” by the US tabloid, the National Enquirer, alleging it threatened to publish intimate photos he sent to his mistress.
In a post on the online platform Medium, Bezos said that the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc (AMI), threatened to publish images of his extramarital affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez, unless he dropped an investigation into how the tabloid obtained the messages.
According to Bezos, the Enquirer also demanded that he and security consultant Gavin de Becker, who was hired to get to the bottom of how the Enquirer obtained the messages, make a “false public statement,” and say that the tabloid’s coverage of him and his mistress was not politically motivated.
De Becker had mentioned in a recent Daily Beast article that “strong leads point to political motives”.
“Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail,” Bezos said, “I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.”
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
On Friday, American Media Inc pushed back against the accusations, saying its reporting was lawful and that it would investigate Bezos’s claims.
It also said that at the time of the Bezos’s allegations it was in “good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him”.
The company added, “In light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.”
Bezos has been repeatedly criticised by US President Donald Trump over his newspaper, The Washington Post, and its coverage of his presidency.
In the blog post, Bezos pointed to AMI’s CEO David Pecker’s previous cooperation with Trump, including payments made to suppress negative stories, currently under investigation by federal prosecutors.
One involves a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump.
The hush-money payment, and a similar one to another woman, was made on the eve of Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.
In a deal announced with federal prosecutors late last year, AMI said it would cooperate with those prosecutors. It admitted that before the election it had paid $150,000 to the ex-model, Karen McDougal, to silence her allegations of an affair with Trump.
Prosecutors said they would not charge AMI.
The Post was also one of the leading news outlets in the coverage of the murder last year of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Post columnist.
Trump has refused to criticise Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been widely accused of ordering the murder.
“My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos wrote in the blog post.
“President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”