National Enquirer responds to Jeff Bezos’ blackmail claims in nude photo scandal

Close-up of Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos on stage
David Ryder/Getty Images

Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos claimed he was the target of blackmail by the National Enquirer, exposing a potentially damaging scandal involving nude pictures of himself Thursday evening — a wild story complete with international relations, extortion, hacking, nude selfies, and more.

In a personal blog post published on Medium titled, “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” Bezos claimed that AMI, the publisher of tabloid publication The National Enquirer, had blackmailed him into dropping an investigation into the company’s catch-and-kill practice, a strategy where a publication agrees to buy a story and then kills it later as a favor to a friend.

AMI’s David Pecker, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, was previously reported to have employed the tactic on a story involving former Playboy model Karen McDougal in order to silence negative news that would have impacted Trump’s presidential campaign, according to a CNN report. Bezos claimed that if he dropped the story, then AMI would not publish the pictures they had obtained of him and his partner Lauren Sanchez.

“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. Bezos shared details of his email correspondences with Dylan Howard, AMI chief content officer. In an email, Howard described one of the photos that the tabloid had in possession as a “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick,'” as well as a photo of Sanchez that was said to reveal her cleavage. Bezos, his lawyer, and an investigator had replied that AMI did not own the rights to the pictures, but the company claimed that the photos are newsworthy given Bezos’ role at Amazon.

“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,” Bezos explained in his blog post. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”

On Friday morning, AMI responded to Bezos’ claim, sending Digital Trends a statement noting that the company’s actions were well within the law — and part of “good faith negotiations.”

“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos. Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him. Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.”

After The National Enquirer had published the details of Bezos’ affair with Sanchez in January, along with text messages shared between the two, Bezos had hired private investigator Gavin de Becker to see if the story amounted to political revenge for The Washington Post‘s stories about Donald Trump. Bezos alleged that the nude photos were used to force him to drop his investigation into AMI and issue a statement that AMI’s reporting of the affair was not politically motivated. “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 wrote.

“AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, led by David Pecker, recently entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice related to their role in the so-called “Catch and Kill” process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign,” Bezos wrote. “Federal investigators and legitimate media have of course suspected and proved that Mr. Pecker has used the Enquirer and AMI for political reasons. And yet AMI keeps claiming otherwise,” Bezos added.

“It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos continued. “President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”

Digital Trends has reached out to Amazon and AMI for comment, but we have not gotten a response from either company.

Updated Friday, Feb. 8 with a statement from AMI.

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