Amazon founder Jeff Bezos went public Thursday with his ongoing dispute with the owner of the National Enquirer’s parent company American Media over the tabloid’s recent publication of Bezos’ private text messages. The scuffle started when the National Enquirer, owned and run by Trump ally David Pecker, published a 12-page spread on Bezos’ affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez that included intimate texts between the pair. In a post on Medium on Thursday, Bezos outlined an outrageous and blatant blackmail attempt by AMI, which threatened to publish lewd selfies of Bezos as a reprisal if he didn’t disavow the reporting by the paper he owns, the Washington Post, into AMI’s politicized hit pieces and political support of the Trump campaign.
It is still not totally clear how the National Enquirer obtained the texts, but Bezos responded by tasking his longtime private security consultant Gavin de Becker with figuring out how the publication invaded his privacy. Bezos’ investigation points to Lauren Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, as the likely culprit. The Hollywood operator is vocally pro-Trump and runs in a circle with known Trump associates Roger Stone and Carter Page. Bezos’ post, however, contains a far more serious charge of extortion by AMI. “They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation,” Bezos wrote. “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. … If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”
Bezos then posted damning—and personally embarrassing—emails from AMI’s legal team dated Tuesday describing the racy pictures it has and is willing to publish, unless Bezos is willing to negotiate.
…[I] the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering In addition to the “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’” — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:
· Mr. Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.
· Ms. Sanchez response — a photograph of her smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.
· A shirtless Mr. Bezos holding his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring. He’s wearing either tight black cargo pants or shorts — and his semi-erect manhood is penetrating the zipper of said garment.
· 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.
· A naked selfie in a bathroom — while wearing his wedding ring. Mr. Bezos is wearing nothing but a white towel — and the top of his pubic region can be seen.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a two-piece red bikini with gold detail dress revealing her cleavage.
It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.
That email was followed by another the next day from American Media’s deputy counsel that listed its “proposed terms” for not publishing the photos of Bezos. In return for AMI burying the photos, the company demanded “[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.” The proposed agreement further stipulated that it was to be confidential and that AMI, should Bezos ever disclose the blackmail attempt, would be free to publish the photos. The result was essentially perpetual blackmail dressed up in legalese.
Bezos did not agree to the terms and chose to go public with the extortion attempt, which will surely put enormous public pressure on AMI and likely give the National Enquirer pause when deciding whether to publish the images. “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,” he wrote. “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. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”