National Enquirer's parent company was so invested in exposing Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez's affair that it reportedly coughed up a hefty sum for their racy texts. But how and where exactly did American Media obtain these the messages? According to the Wall Street Journal, it was Sanchez's brother who leaked the embarrassing evidence.
The outlets reports AMI paid Michael Sanchez $200,000 for the texts, which included explicit photos of the Amazon CEO. Rumors of the deal began circulating in February, shortly after Bezos accused AMI of attempting to blackmail him over his nude selfies.
"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 in a Medium post. He also shared purported emails from National Enquirer editor-in-chief Dylan Howard, who threatened to release nine images the outlet had obtained, including "a naked selfie in a bathroom" and a "below the belt selfie."
The WSJ reports Michael had provided the messages to AMI in 2018 and received the full $200,000 upfront. As part of the deal, Michael was permitted to sell the texts to another publication if the National Enquirer didn't publish them in "about a month's time." AMI boss David Pecker was reportedly so upset with the terms of the agreement he fired Cameron Stracher, the company's chief legal counsel for media.
Sources say Pecker began "raising his voice and cursing" at Stracher after he learned about the details of Michael's deal. Insiders told WSJ that Pecker felt as though he was "being forced to run the story."
AMI, National Enquirer, and Amazon reportedly did not respond to requests for comment. Michael told The Wrap that the WSJ story was "disappointing," but he did not deny the alleged deal.
"WSJ's report on old rumors from 'anonymous' sources is disappointing. I didn't dignify the rumors last month and I'm not going to dignify them now," he said. "Two key facts remain the same: 1) Everything I've done since the day I met Bezos protected his extramarital affair from Gavin de Becker, and 2) I never had access to the penis selfies which are the heart of criminal allegations against Dylan Howard, a desperate man I sincerely believe attempted to brazenly blackmail Jeff Bezos."
Gavin de Becker is Bezos' longtime security chief who is leading the investigation into his leaked text messages.