Here’s why Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and The National Enquirer’s parent company are in a public feud over allegations of blackmail and extortion.
In response to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ pointed allegations of “extortion and blackmail,” the National Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc. has responded that it “believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story” on Bezos’ relationship with former Los Angeles television news anchor Lauren Sanchez.
In the statement released Friday, AMI says that, at “the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him.”
Bezos blasted the company Thursday night in a blog post on the Medium platform, sharing emails from AMI detailing an alleged extortion and blackmail attempt by the company if Bezos did not put out a statement “affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” The emails also demanded Bezos and his investigator agree that they would stop “referring to such a possibility.”
AMI claims in the email that it has a number of intimate images of Bezos and Sanchez, including a “below the belt selfie” of Bezos and a picture of Sanchez “smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.”
The National Enquirer previously shared details of Bezos and Sanchez’s relationship, including romantic text messages the two had sent each other. The Enquirer posted the texts after Bezos’ announced last month that he and his wife, MacKenzie, would be getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage.
The leak of these messages prompted Bezos to put Gavin de Becker from his security team on the case of investigating how the Enquirer got a hold of the messages.
In addition to alleging a blackmail attempt, Bezos also claims that AMI CEO David Pecker was “apoplectic” over an investigation The Washington Post was conducted into Pecker and AMI’s interest in expanding to Saudi Arabia, including AMI’s publication of a pro-Saudi Arabia tabloid last year ahead of the arrival of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Bezos, on top of being the founder of Amazon and the world’s richest person, owns The Washington Post.
In his blistering post, Bezos links to a New York Times report that said Trump invited Pecker to a White House dinner in which the AMI CEO brought a guest that the Times describes as having “important ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia.”
“A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker’s apoplexy, 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.”
Pecker is a longtime ally of President Donald Trump. Trump has often targeted Bezos, Amazon and The Washington Post on his Twitter feed, including tweeting about all three subjects days after the National Enquirer broke the news that Bezos was seeing Sanchez.
Trump called Bezos “Jeff Bozo” in the tweet, writing that he was “so sorry to hear the news” about Bezos being “taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post.”
Federal prosecutors in New York have accused AMI of participating in a scheme to help Trump win the presidency by paying women to keep silent about extramarital affairs he allegedly had with them before the election.
While the company stands by its reporting, AMI does say that, “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.”
AMI’s board consists of four members: Pecker, Evan Ratner, Barry Schwartz and David R. Hughes.
Contributing: Brad Heath
Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal
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