Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos on Thursday accused the American Media Inc-owned tabloid The National Enquirer of making an “extortionate proposal” to not publish his intimate photos. The media company allegedly wanted him to falsely state in public that its coverage was not politically motivated.
Bezos, the richest man in the world, accused the outlet’s published David Pecker of using the company and the tabloid for political reasons, and said “federal investigators and legitimate media” had proved so. Bezos made the accusations in a Medium post.
The alleged blackmail attempt was in connection with pictures of Bezos with former TV host Lauren Sanchez. In January, Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos had announced that they were getting divorced. Soon after, the tabloid carried reports about text messages hinting at the billionaire’s affair. It was allegedly using the blackmail attempt to stop Bezos from carrying out an investigation into how it had got access to the text messages.
“Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there is a much more important matter involved here,” Bezos said. “If in my position I cannot stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”
AMI has yet to respond to queries on the matter, Bloomberg reported.
The Amazon chief claimed that his ownership of The Washington Post is a “complexifier” for him in the scenario and cited its critical coverage of Trump’s administration and the daily’s coverage of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “It is unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos wrote. “President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets.”
Bezos shared correspondence from the National Enquirer to back his claims.
Journalist Ronan Farrow says he too was blackmailed by AMI
After Bezos’s post, investigative journalist Ronan Farrow that he and another journalist too were blackmailed by American Media Inc.
“I and at least one other prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump fielded similar ‘stop digging or we’ll ruin you’ blackmail efforts from AMI.” Farrow tweeted on Friday. “I did not engage as I don’t cut deals with subjects of ongoing reporting.”
In 2018, Farrow had written in The New Yorker on how the National Enquirer had paid money for rights to Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story about her purported year-long affair with Trump in 2006. The tabloid did not publish the story. The practice of burying a story by buying rights for it is called “catch and kill”.