Jeff Bezos thinks the National Enquirer should go ahead and try to blackmail him.
The Amazon CEO published a post on Medium today (Feb. 7) titled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” referring to David Pecker, the chairman and CEO of American Media Inc. (AMI), which owns the tabloid. In his post, Bezos lays out the details of a scheme in which AMI purportedly threatened to release compromising photos of him unless he put an end to his criticism of the publication. Bezos refused.
In the series of emails revealed on the Medium post, Bezos details how AMI had offered him a deal in the wake of revelations about his affair with former news anchor Lauren Sanchez. AMI said the Enquirer had tracked the executive for months, and claimed he was “whisking his mistress off to exotic destinations on his $65 million private jet.” The revelations included private text messages between the two, and suggested that the Enquirer possessed compromising pictures.
AMI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos announced their divorce on Jan. 9 after “a long period of loving exploration and trial separation.” Vox reported that the two had separated before Bezos and Sanchez began dating. Bezos then hired a private investigator, Gavin de Becker, to learn how the texts were obtained and the motives by the Enquirer, giving Becker “whatever budget he needed.”
Bezos says AMI is now demanding that he end his investigation of the source of the disclosure and AMI’s role in it, and clear the company with what he calls a “false” public statement. The emails disclosed by Bezos show AMI demanding that he and de Becker state they have “no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” If not, more revealing photos and messages of Bezos and Sanchez would be published. In the emails, Dylan Howard, chief content officer for AMI, said the Enquirer possesses semi-nude selfies of Bezos wearing only a white towel in a bathroom and another partly exposing his genitals, as well as images showing Sanchez in a suggestive pose smoking a cigar and wearing revealing clothing.
Bezos doesn’t deny the existence of these images. Instead, he writes, “Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”
He also writes about how the Washington Post, which he owns, fits into the alleged blackmail scheme. “It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” he wrote. “Even though The Post is a complexifier for me, I do not at all regret my investment. The Post is a critical institution with a critical mission.”
AMI said in December it had coordinated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to kill stories relating to the president’s sexual affairs, and his dealings with Saudi Arabia. In its emails to Bezos, AMI denied any material it has published was “instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.” In those messages, AMI also warned Bezos that “any further dissemination of these false, vicious, speculative and unsubstantiated statements is done at your client’s peril.”
Bezos wasn’t interested.
“These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism,” he wrote. “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.”