Published: Sat, February 09, 2019
Money | By Bruce West

Amazon’s Bezos says National Enquirer tried to blackmail him over ‘intimate photos’

Amazon’s Bezos says National Enquirer tried to blackmail him over ‘intimate photos’

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of NY are reviewing the conduct of the National Enquirer and its parent company, American Media, Inc., after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos alleged Thursday that the tabloid attempted to blackmail and extort him by threatening to publish his nude selfies, according to Bloomberg.

On Thursday, Bezos published several emails that he and his security chief Gavin de Becker received from AMI officials, which he said were created to blackmail him into dropping an investigation he launched into how the National Enquirer got hold of intimate text messages and photos of him and Lauren Sanchez. In it, AMI proposed a public acknowledgment from Bezos and de Becker that "they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that (AMI's) coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces".

"American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr Bezos", the company said.

In a statement Friday morning, AMI reiterated claims that it acted within legal boundaries in obtaining personal texts attributed to Bezos, some which the National Enquirer published last month.

American Media continued to say that its company board will thoroughly investigate claims made by Bezos to the contrary, and take whatever resulting action was deemed necessary.

Trump has often railed against Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, on Twitter.

The first whiff of controversy came January 9 when Bezos posted a statement on Twitter, signed by him and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie, announcing plans to divorce.

AMI has not yet responded to the BBC's request for comment. "If in my position I can't stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?"

A letter from AMI's Dylan Howard warns of consequences if the Washington Post, owned by Bezos, published "unsubstantiated rumours" about the firm and its Trump-backing owner, David Pecker. The deal not to prosecute was conditional on AMI not committing another crime, the office said.

Bezos said he chose to publish the emails sent to his team "rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, " despite the "personal cost and embarrassment they threaten".

President Trump tweets a shot at the Amazon CEO.

Last month Trump took aim at Bezos - referring to him as "Bozo" - in what appeared to be an allusion to National Enquirer reporting of the billionaire's relationship with former news anchor and entertainment reporter Lauren Sanchez. It certainly would be the least surprising development in this saga, in which Bezos published email correspondence between his lawyers and AMI detailing how AMI threatened to publish nude or semi-nude pictures of Bezos and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, unless investigators hired by Bezos stopped looking into connections between AMI and Saudi Arabia. Sent more emails with stipulations of the terms Bezos, et al. needed to abide by for the photos to remain unpublished.

Bezos accused the Enquirer and its publisher David Pecker, a Trump ally, of extortion in a bid to end that probe.

In its January 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".

Bezos pointed to the president's ties to AMI in the Thursday blog. Interestingly, Sanchez is now a subject of the investigation being conducted by de Becker. In the blog, Bezos said that the tabloid had published "intimate text messages from me".

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