WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) – Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon and the richest man in the world, published an extraordinarily personal blog post on Thursday (Feb 7) that accused the owner of The National Enquirer of trying to blackmail him in order to stop an investigation into how the tabloid had obtained private messages and pictures sent between him and the woman he was seeing.
In the post, Bezos said The National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., was threatening to publish explicit pictures of him and the woman, Lauren Sanchez. He also named the chairman of AMI, David Pecker.
The following are excerpts from the blog post:
WHAT DOES THE ENQUIRER CLAIM TO HAVE?
Bezos published an e-mail he said was from Dylan Howard, chief content officer of AMI. Howard provided details about the pictures the company claimed to have.
The list begins with a “below the belt selfie” and describes nine other images, including:
– “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.”
WHAT DOES THE ENQUIRER WANT?
Bezos published an email he said was from Jon P. Fine, a lawyer for AMI, that included a list of demands. Some of those included:
“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.”
IS THIS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED?
Bezos alludes to another potential motivation for AMI’s blackmail threat: He owns The Washington Post.
The paper has investigated AMI; reports on President Donald Trump, a longtime friend of Pecker; and employed Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist killed by operatives from Saudi Arabia, where AMI does lucrative business. The Post has reported extensively on Khashoggi’s killing.
Bezos wrote: “It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy.
“President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”
Bezos also published an email he said was from Fine, who denied that the threat was politically motived but also included a complaint about critical coverage by The Post. It said: “American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise. Simply put, this was and is a news story.
“Yet, it is our understanding that your client’s representatives, including the Washington Post, continue to pursue and to disseminate these false and spurious allegations in a manner that is injurious to American Media and its executives.”
WHERE DOES BEZOS’ INVESTIGATION FIT IN?
Bezos said he had been told that Pecker was personally involved. He wrote: “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.”
WHAT DOES BEZOS THINK IS AT STAKE?
Bezos said the e-mail describing the pictures had gotten his attention, but he thought there was more at stake than his personal privacy.
“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?”
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