Washington Post owner and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wrote Thursday evening that the National Enquirer tried to blackmail him by threatening to publish intimate selfies.
Mr. Bezos said in a post to Medium.com that the threats from American Media Inc. demanded that he vindicate the Enquirer’s coverage as politically unmotivated, contrary to investigations by the Post.
“I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought. I’m glad they thought that, because it emboldened them to put it all in writing. 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,” Mr. Bezos wrote.
According to Mr. Bezos’s account, the Enquirer and his lawyers are engaged in a dispute over texts and photos that show an adulterous affair with a woman named Lauren Sanchez.
The Enquirer argues that the photos are newsworthy and thus can be published despite copyright laws because, in Mr. Bezos’s words, “the photos are necessary to show Amazon shareholders that my business judgment is terrible.”
On Tuesday, according to Mr. Bezos, AMI lawyer Dylan Howard send a note marked “CONFIDENTIAL & NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION” to Bezos lawyer Martin Singer.
“I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering … It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly,” Mr. Howard wrote.
The note says that “in addition to the ‘below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a “d*ck pick”‘ — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images,” which the note went on to detail.
Among the images are one of a nude Mr. Bezos where the Enquirer pointedly notes Mr. Bezos is wearing his wedding ring. At least two of the other photos are suggestive ones of Ms. Sanchez.
“Well, that got my attention,” Mr. Bezos responded. “But not in the way they likely hoped. 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?”
Mr. Bezos, who owns The Post but does not have an editorial position, said the price the Enquirer’s lawyers were demanding was a false statement related to charges Enquirer tilts its political coverage.
According to Mr. Bezos, Enquirer owner David Pecker was most irked by the Post’s coverage of Saudi Arabia and the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was a columnist for the Post.
“Nothing I might write here could tell the National Enquirer story as eloquently as their own words below. These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism,” Mr. Bezos wrote.
He then published several more lawyers notes at end of his post.
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