Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer of trying to blackmail him over intimate photos
Bezos accuses AMI of threatening to publish graphic photos, including ‘below-the-belt selfie’
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: ‘Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail’. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters
Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon. com Inc, has accused the owner of the National Enquirer of trying to blackmail him with the threat of publishing “intimate photos” he allegedly sent to his girlfriend unless he said in public that the supermarket tabloid’s reporting on him was not politically motivated.
The accusation, published in a blog post, is the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has brought the world’s richest person’s private life into the spotlight and thrusts him deeper into a battle with the leading US tabloid publisher, which has had close links with the president of the United States.
“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favours, political attacks, and corruption,” Mr Bezos wrote. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”
The headline of Mr Bezos’s post, No thank you, Mr. Pecker targeted David Pecker, the head of the tabloid company. In the sometimes digressive text that followed, he accused American Media Inc (AMI) of threatening to publish graphic photographs of him, including a “below-the-belt selfie,” if he did not publicly affirm that the Enquirer’s reporting on his affair was not motivated by political concerns.
In the blog, Mr Bezos published an email allegedly from Dylan Howard, chief content officer at AMI, to Martin Singer, noted as “litigation counsel for Mr. de Becker” with the subject line “Jeff Bezos & Ms. Lauren Sanchez Photos”. The alleged emailed from Mr Howard to Mr Singer read: “ I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering.
“In addition to the “below the belt selfie—otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’”—The Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:
· Mr. Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.
· Ms. Sanchez response—a photograph of her smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.
· A shirtless Mr. Bezos holding his phone in his left hand—while wearing his wedding ring. He’s wearing either tight black cargo pants or shorts—and his semi-erect manhood is penetrating the zipper of said garment.
· A full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks, with his phone in his left hand—while wearing his wedding ring.
· A selfie of Mr. Bezos fully clothed.
· A full-length scantily-clad body shot with short trunks.
· A naked selfie in a bathroom—while wearing his wedding ring. Mr. Bezos is wearing nothing but a white towel—and the top of his pubic region can be seen.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a two-piece red bikini with gold detail dress revealing her cleavage.”
American Media Inc (AMI), the owner of the National Enquirer, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Mr Bezos and his wife announced last month that they were divorcing after 25 years of marriage, following a period of “loving exploration” and trial separation. That same day, the National Enquirer touted it was publishing alleged intimate text messages between Mr Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, a former television anchor whom he was said to be dating.
Shortly after that, Mr Bezos opened an investigation into the leak led by Gavin de Becker, a longtime security consultant and former appointee of US president Ronald Reagan. Mr De Becker proceeded to tell media that the leak was politically motivated.
Mr Bezos, Amazon and the newspaper he owns privately, the Washington Post, have all been targets of attacks on Twitter by US president Donald Trump.
The Washington Post has published many articles critical of the president. It acts as Amazon’s “chief lobbyist,” Mr Trump has said on Twitter, without presenting evidence. Mr Trump called Mr Bezos “Jeff Bozo” in a tweet last month about the National Enquirer’s coverage of his divorce.
“It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Mr Bezos wrote. “President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In his blog, Mr Bezos cited an email from AMI deputy general counsel, Jon Fine, to a lawyer representing Mr de Becker. In it, AMI proposed a public acknowledgment from Mr Bezos and Mr de Becker that “they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that (AMI’s) coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
In return for such an acknowledgement, according to the email, AMI offered “not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos.”
Mr Bezos said the statement AMI was proposing was false and described the offer as an “extortionate proposal.”
Mr Fine and Mr de Becker could not immediately be reached for comment.
The alleged extortion raises questions among some legal observers about whether AMI and its chief executive Mr Pecker have violated a co-operation agreement AMI made last year with federal prosecutors in connection with a $150,000 (€132,269) hush-money payment given to Karen McDougal, the Playboy model who claims she had an affair with president Donald Trump.
The payment was made during the 2016 presidential election to influence that election, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). The deal not to prosecute was conditional on AMI not committing another crime, the office said.
A spokesman for the SDNY attorney’s office declined to comment on the matter.
Mr Bezos, who owns more than $120 billion in Amazon stock, said in his blog: “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” –Reuters