In a mind-boggling post published on Medium.com Thursday, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accused the parent company of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc. (AMI) of "extortion and blackmail."
The nearly 1,500 word post details allegations by the Amazon CEO that includes alleged correspondence between the lawyer for Bezos' lead investigator, Martin Singer, and Dylan Howard, the chief content officer at AMI. Several emails allegedly sent by Howard say that the Enquirer would publish several intimate images they had of Bezos and former Los Angeles news anchor, Lauren Sanchez.
The email from Singer describes some of the photos they had in their possession, including a "below the belt selfie" from the Amazon founder as well as shots of Sanchez smoking a cigar in what appears to be a "simulated oral sex scene." The National Enquirer previously shared texts and emails between Bezos and Sanchez, exposing their relationship one month after Bezos announced that he and his wife MacKenzie would be seperating and getting a divorce after twenty-five years of marriage.
A second email allegedly sent by AMI attorney Jon Fine, said the Enquirer would not publish the unreleased emails and texts so long as Bezos released a statement saying that he had "no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces."
The email also demands that Bezos and his investigator cease looking into "such a possibility."
Bezos wrote that "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."
Bezo went on to add that the threat from AMI came at a time when AMI CEO David Pecker was "apoplectic" about an investigation being conducted by the Washington Post into Pecker's business ties with Saudi Arabia, including AMI's publishing of a pro-Saudi tabloid ahead of a visit to the U.S. by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
"A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker’s apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer," Bezos wrote. "They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation."
Bezos called his ownership of The Washington Post a "complexifier" for him, adding that he does not regret his 2013 purchase of the paper.
"My stewardship of The Post and my support of its mission, which will remain unswerving, is something I will be most proud of when I’m 90 and reviewing my life, if I’m lucky enough to live that long," Bezos wrote, "regardless of any complexities it creates for me."
After Bezos posted his article, Ronan Farrow wrote on Twitter that he and "at least one other prominent journalist" who reported on the National Enquirer and President Donald Trump also received threats of blackmail from AMI.
"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 wrote, adding that he did not engage with them as he doesn't "cut deals."
In a statement responding to Bezos' accusations send to CNBC, AMI wrote that it "acted lawfully" in reporting the story about the Amazon CEO's infidelity to his wife, and announced an internal investigation.
"American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos. Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him. Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary."
In December, AMI struck an immunity deal with federal prosecutors in New York after they were accused of participating in a scheme to help Trump win presidency by paying women to stay silent about alleged infidelity by the president. That deal could be put in jeopardy if it's found that the company acted unlawfully by participating in blackmail as Bezos alleges, AMI could lose its immunity.
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