Jeff Bezos has accused the National Enquirer of extortion. The Amazon CEO published a personal blog post Thursday claiming the publication has threatened to publish his nude photos if he didn't stop questioning the company's motives. Bezos says the National Enquirer contacted his counsel this week claiming to have obtained intimate photos of him and Lauren Sanchez, the former news anchor he had been dating behind his wife's back.
The National Enquirer was the first outlet to detail the affair and went so far as to publish explicit text messages between Bezos and Sanchez. The billionaire went on to launch a private investigation into the matter, attempting to find how exactly the tabloid obtained his private messages. There was also suspicion that the National Enquirer exposé was a politically motivated attack on Bezos.
David Pecker, the CEO of National Enquirer's parent company American Media, is a longtime friend of President Donald Trump. Pecker previously admitted that in 2016 the publication paid ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 to ensure she did not publicize her alleged affair with then-candidate Trump. It's also important to note that Bezos has become one of Trump's most prominent adversaries. In 2015, Trump claimed the Bezos-owned Washington Post was a "scam" that was used to keep Amazon afloat. The president has also referred to Bezos as "Jeff Bozo" and has mocked the businessman's pending divorce.
Bezos' Thursday blog reads in part:
A few days after hearing about [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.
My lawyers argued that AMI has no right to publish photos since any person holds the copyright to their own photos, and since the photos in themselves don’t add anything newsworthy.
[...] In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
Bezos also published what he said was an email from National Enquirer editor-in-chief Dylan Howard. The email includes threats to release the racy photos and text messages involving Sanchez. Howard allegedly detailed the nine images the outlet had obtained; they included "a naked selfie in a bathroom" and a "below the belt selfie."
"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," Bezos wrote.