By Karen Weise
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, accused the owner of The National Enquirer on Thursday of trying “extortion and blackmail” to stop his investigation into how his private text messages and photos with his mistress were leaked to the tabloid.
In an extraordinarily personal online post, Bezos said intermediaries of David Pecker, chairman of American Media Inc., the owner of The Enquirer, had approached him to stop his investigation. Bezos said he had been told that if he refused, the publisher would make risqué and intimate photos of him and his mistress, Lauren Sanchez, public.
Bezos said AMI had wanted him to stop looking into it for political reasons. He pointed to the publisher’s past cooperation with President Donald Trump, as well as its connections to the government of Saudi Arabia. Bezos owns The Washington Post, which has relentlessly reported on the murder last year of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident.
“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,” Bezos wrote of AMI, explaining why he had decided to speak out. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over and see what crawls out.”
Bezos’ online post details a stunning and bizarre clash between the world’s richest man and the nation’s biggest tabloid publisher. In it, all of the country’s obsessions of recent years appear to have collided, from the personal lives of billionaires and sensational tabloid headlines to Trump’s fight with the media.
It has also shown that even for one of the world’s most powerful tech titans and the owner of one of the country’s most influential newspapers, the best means of communications can be a simple blog post. And in a time when Beltway pundits complain that the public has lost its capacity to be shocked, Bezos’ post did exactly that.
Amazon declined to comment. AMI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The confrontation began last month when Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, announced that they were getting divorced. The couple, who have been married for 25 years, disclosed their separation just before The Enquirer published an article exposing that Jeff Bezos was having an affair with Sanchez, a former television host who is also married. The Enquirer article included text messages between Bezos and Sanchez, in which he wrote of his feelings for her and used endearments including “alive girl.”
Bezos, who has kept his personal life largely out of the public eye, said in his post that he had then quickly “engaged investigators to learn how those texts were obtained, and to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by The Enquirer.”
Bezos said he had turned to Gavin de Becker, his longtime private security consultant, for help. In recent interviews, including with The Daily Beast and The Washington Post, de Becker has said he was investigating whether Sanchez’s brother, who has said he supports Trump, may have been behind the leak for political reasons.
Those who support the president may have been motivated to move against Bezos since Trump has long criticized the billionaire. Trump has previously linked The Post and Amazon in critical Twitter posts, once declaring the “Fake Washington Post” a “lobbyist” for Amazon.
De Becker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In Bezos’ post Thursday, he also published several emails between de Becker’s lawyer, Martin Singer, and AMI’s lawyer, Jon Fine, and chief content officer, Dylan Howard. The emails detail explicit photos The Enquirer had obtained of Bezos and Sanchez but hadn’t run, and went on to say AMI would not publish the photos if Bezos stopped his investigation and publicly said he did not think the leak had been politically motivated.
In one email that Bezos disclosed, Howard wrote that The Enquirer had obtained photos of Bezos and Sanchez as part of its “newsgathering.” Included, Howard wrote, were photos that showed Sanchez simulating an oral sex scene and Bezos clad in just a white towel.
“Nothing I might write here could tell the National Enquirer story as eloquently as their own words,” Bezos wrote of releasing the emails.
He added that any personal embarrassment from the revelations took “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,” he wrote, “how many people can?”