- Jeff Bezos implicitly charged on Thursday that the National Enquirer’s story exposing his affair with TV anchor Lauren Sanchez was a political hit job.
- The charge came as part of a statement Bezos released accusing the Enquirer’s publisher of blackmail and extortion.
- Bezos suggested the Enquirer’s publisher might have written the story as a favour to or at the behest of President Donald Trump.
Jeff Bezos on Thursday all but charged that the National Enquirer’s exposure of his affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez was a politically motivated hit job, possibly orchestrated by or as a favour to President Donald Trump.
In a stunning open letter posted on Medium in which he accused American Media (AMI), the Enquirer’s parent company, of extortion and blackmail, Bezos referred to several motives and characters that could form the outline of a conspiracy. Bezos never explicitly connected the dots himself, but presented the facts in a way that a reader would be hard pressed to miss them.
Bezos’ blog post described efforts by Enquirer publisher AMI to get him to clear the tabloid’s exposé of having any political agenda or origin.
AMI, according to Bezos, had alerted him that the Enquirer had a collection of racy photos of him and Sanchez. The tabloid threatened to publish them, Bezos said, unless he put out a statement that he and the investigator he hired to look into the Enquirer’s story about his affair “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
“If we do not agree to affirmatively publicize that specific lie, they say they will publish the photos, and quickly,” Bezos charged.
Bezos doesn’t flat-out say that the Enquirer’s piece was politically motivated. He’s saying he would be lying if he said he believed it wasn’t politically motivated. He’s essentially saying that he either knows or has reason to suspect that the Enquirer’s story about his affair was, in fact, politically motivated.
Representatives for AMI did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Bezos’ post.
Bezos suggested that Trump and the Saudis might have been involved
But Bezos went further than that, suggesting that AMI might have published the story as a favour to or at the direction of either Donald Trump or the Saudi Arabian government.
Trump has repeatedly made clear his ire over the coverage of him in The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, the latter noted. Meanwhile, David Pecker, AMI’s chairman, has long been accused of using the Enquirer for political purposes, Bezos said. AMI helped Trump lawyer Michael Cohen suppress the stories of two of Trump’s affairs during the 2016 presidential election campaign by either purchasing one, in one case, or, in the other, helping to arrange a deal for Cohen to purchase them, according to the government’s criminal complaint against Cohen to which he pleaded guilty.
Bezos doesn’t accuse Trump of orchestrating a political hit on him, but comes close.
“It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos wrote “President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets.”
In one such tweet, shortly after the Enquirer story was published, Trump to delight in the revelation about “Jeff Bozo being taken down.”
White House representatives did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment about Bezos’ post.
Bezos also suggested that Saudi Arabia may have been working against him behind the scenes. AMI has reportedly explored business ties with Saudi Arabia and published a magazine last year solely devoted to fawning coverage of Mohammed bin Salman, its crown prince, Bezos said. The Post, in the meantime, has been “unrelenting” in covering the death – allegedly by Saudi agents – of Jamal Khashoggi, a former columnist at The Post, a Saudi citizen, and an outspoken critic of bin Salman, Bezos said.
AMI was “unnerved” when Bezos’ investigation into the story touched on the publishing company’s Saudi connections, he claimed.
“Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is ‘apoplectic’ about our investigation,” Bezos said. “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.”
Representatives at the Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Presidents have used the press to go after critics
Were Trump to have been involved in the publication, it wouldn’t be the first time a president or his staff has used the press to go after a critic. White House officials under George W. Bush leaked the name of then-undercover CIA analyst Valerie Plame after her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times discrediting the idea that Iraq had obtained bomb-making materials from Niger.
Thirty years earlier, Richard Nixon ordered his Plumbers investigative unit to try to discredit Daniel Ellsberg in the press after he leaked the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret history of the Vietnam War.
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