Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has accused AMI, the publisher of the National Enquirer, of "extortion and blackmail."The billionaire owner of The Washington Post says AMI is threatening to release naked photos of him.The National Enquirer previously published an exposé on Bezos’ affair, and the 55-year-old exec is now investigating.AMI allegedly threatened to release the photos unless Bezos halts his investigation into the leaks.David Pecker, the owner of the National Enquirer, has long been an ally of Trump, and Bezos insinuates the exposé was politically motivated.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has accused AMI, the publisher of the National Enquirer, of attempting to extort him over leaked naked photos.
In January 2019, the National Enquirer published an exposé into an affair between the billionaire tech exec and former news anchor and helicopter pilot Lauren Sanchez, and said that it had seen explicit photos of him.
In an extraordinary blog post published on Medium on Thursday, Bezos alleges that AMI subsequently attempted to extort him over these photos. He claims that the publisher threatened to publish the photos unless he stopped an investigation into the leaks. And they also allegedly demanded that he disavow the idea that AMI’s article might have been politically motivated.
"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.
Spokespeople for AMI and Amazon did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.
Bezos insinuates the National Enquirer may have been politically motivated
AMI has long been accused of having political motives for its news coverage.
Its owner, David Pecker, is an ally of Trump, and has previously engaged buying negative stories about the US president in order to bury them (a process called "catch and kill"). As such, there has been some speculation that the National Enquirer exposé on Bezos was at least partially motivated by the long-running feud between Trump and Bezos, who owns The Washington Post.
Gavin de Becker, Bezos’ security boss leading that investigation into the exposé, had previously said that "strong leads point to political motives." (De Becker has "whatever budget he needed" to carry out this investigation, Bezos wrote.)
Bezos doesn’t outright say that he believes the National Enquirer exposé was politically motivated. But he hints at it, beginning his blog post by recapping AMI’s "catch and kill" practices, and saying the fact that he owns The Washington Post means "powerful people who experience … news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy."
He also hints at a potential Saudi Arabian connection to his investigation into AMI, writing: : "Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is ‘apoplectic’ about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.
"A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker’s apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, 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."
AMI’s alleged emails have been published
Bezos’s comments represent an extraordinary intervention from the 55-year-old exec into the tabloid scandal. Bezos had so far refrained from commenting, even as De Becker gave media interviews, and he rarely talks to the press.
Bezos’s post also includes what he says are copies of the emails sent by AMI, which include explicit descriptions of what the intimate photos allegedly depict.
"In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we ‘have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces,’" Bezos wrote.
"If we do not agree to affirmatively publicize that specific lie, they say they’ll publish the photos, and quickly. And there’s an associated threat: They’ll keep the photos on hand and publish them in the future if we ever deviate from that lie."
These are, Bezos alleges, some of the terms which AMI tried to get him to agree to in return for not publishing the photos:
"1. A full and complete mutual release of all claims that American Media, on the one hand, and Jeff Bezos and Gavin de Becker (the "Bezos Parties"), on the other, may have against each other.
"2. A public, mutually-agreed upon acknowledgment from the Bezos Parties, released through a mutually-agreeable news outlet, affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility.
"3. AM agrees not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos (the "Unpublished Materials")."
Bezos added that his lawyers believe AMI has no right to publish the photos in any case, because he owns the copyright to any photos he took.
This story is developing…