LOS ANGELES/SEATTLE/NEW YORK – Amazon Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer and its owner David Pecker of extortion and blackmail.
The magazine published an expose of Bezos’ alleged relationship with TV personality Lauren Sanchez, and Bezos has hired investigators to find out if the story was politically motivated. He owns the Washington Post, which has written critical stories about President Donald Trump, who counts Pecker as a close ally.
On Thursday, Bezos said that the National Enquirer threatened to publish more details and revealing photos if the executive didn’t stop the probe. A spokesman for American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The magazine investigated Bezos because his wealth and position made him a newsworthy subject, according an email from a lawyer for AMI that Bezos published on Thursday.
“Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten,” Bezos wrote in a post on Medium. “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?”
AMI has admitted in the past that it engaged in what is known as “catch-and-kill” practices to help Trump become president. Trump has been highly critical of Bezos and the Post’s coverage of the White House.
Several days ago, someone at AMI told Bezos’ team that Pecker was “apoplectic” about the investigation, Bezos said. AMI later approached Bezos’ representatives with an offer.
“They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation,” Bezos wrote.
It does not appear that AMI demanded any money from Bezos — only that he call off his investigation and issue a statement saying the coverage wasn’t political.
In its Jan. 9 story, the Enquirer said reporters followed Bezos and Sanchez “across five states and 40,000 miles” and “tailed them in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, five-star hotel hideaways, intimate dinner dates and ‘quality time’ in hidden love nests.”
It reported that Bezos sent “sleazy text messages and gushing love notes” to Sanchez, months before Bezos announced he was splitting up with his wife, MacKenzie.