Bezos thwarts alleged blackmail attempt from tabloid rival

Bezos instead wrote a blog accusing American Media Inc (AMI), parent company of the notorious tabloid, of trying to blackmail him into making a “false public statement” that the National Enquirer’s stories on his extra-marital affair were not politically motivated.

AMI had apparently obtained several photos of Bezos and his mistress, Lauren Sanchez, including a “naked selfie in a bathroom”, which it threatened to publish. Reports emerged last month that Bezos was getting divorced from his wife MacKenzie.

Bezos is also the owner of the Washington Post, which Donald Trump has attacked numerous times for its critical coverage of his administration. Trump and AMI boss David Pecker are close allies.

Bezos turned the tables on the blackmail attempt by releasing the emails about his affair himself

By making AMI’s alleged emails to him public, Bezos has snatched the dagger they were metaphorically holding over his head.

The Amazon CEO said he was in a position not to comply with the apparent extortion attempt, a contrast to others who had been threatened and feared losing their livelihoods. He currently has a net worth of around US$133.5 billion.

“Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail,” Bezos wrote, “I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.”

Bezos said AMI’s aim was to discourage him from investigating how it obtained his private communications.

“Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is “apoplectic” about our investigation,” his post continued.

“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.”

Antipathy between Trump and Bezos

The feud between the Bezos and Pecker/Trump camps has also played out through the President’s attacks on Amazon. Trump had also vowed to make legislative changes with the company’s relationship with the US Postal Service. Shares in Amazon had dipped in the wake of the threat.

National Enquirer recently entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice after their role in a ‘catch and kill’ operation where they would acquire exclusive stories which were negative for Trump and then ‘kill’ them by not running them.

Prosecutors had alleged that AMI’s payment to Karen McDougal, a woman who alleged she had a sexual relationship with Trump, contravened laws which prohibit corporations from spending money in order to influence an election or coordinate with a candidate or campaign. The argument was that by buying McDougal’s story, AMI had effectively made an in-kind contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign.

Header image credit: Mathieu Thouvenin

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