Billionaire Jeff Bezos has accused American Media Inc (AMI), the parent company of gossip magazine, the National Enquirer (NE), of trying to blackmail him to stop him investigating how they obtained his private text messages.
Last month, mere hours after Bezos and his then-wife Mackenzie announced they were divorcing, the magazine published details, including private texts messages, of an extramarital affair involving former TV host Lauren Sanchez.
In a blog article, Bezos said he had engaged security specialist Gavin de Becker to “determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer”. He went on to write that an “AMI leader” had subsequently told him that David Pecker, the chief executive of AMI, was “apoplectic” about the private investigation.
In Bezos’ article, published on Medium and titled ‘No thank you, Mr Pecker’, he wrote that his ownership of the Washington Post was a “complexifier” because it made him the enemy of many powerful people, including Donald Trump, who has frequently targeted him. Furthermore, Trump is a long-time friend of Pecker.
Last December, AMI was granted immunity from prosecution for its cooperation in the investigation into Trump’s presidential campaign and alleged payments to silence a playboy model, Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had an affair with Trump. AMI has admitted that it had coordinated with Trump’s presidential campaign to buy up and not publish (a term dubbed ‘catch and kill’ in the news industry) McDougal’s story.
Bezos claims that AMI had wanted him to make a “false public statement” saying that the NE coverage of him and Sanchez’s affair was not politically motivated. If he chose not to comply, AMI threatened to publish intimate selfies exchanged between Bezos and his mistress. Furthermore, it was stipulated that the agreement be totally confidential otherwise AMI “may publish the ‘Unpublished Materials'”.
Bezos said: “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. 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?”
He continued: “Be assured, no real journalists ever propose anything like what is happening here: I will not report embarrassing information about you if you do X for me. And if you don’t do X quickly, I will report the embarrassing information.”