- National Enquirer publisher American Media (AMI) says its board will investigate claims made by Jeff Bezos in a blog post accusing the paper of “extortion and blackmail.”
- In a statement to Business Insider, AMI says it believes it “acted lawfully” and “in good faith” in the reporting on the Amazon CEO’s affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez.
- Bezos’ team has been investigating who leaked private text messages and photos to the National Enquirer, which published an exposé in the wake of Bezos’ divorce from his wife, MacKenzie Bezos.
- Bezos alleges in his blog post that AMI and its chairman, David Pecker, threatened to release nude photos of him if he didn’t cease his investigation into who was responsible for leaking the messages.
American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer, has released a statement saying it “acted lawfully” in its reporting on Jeff Bezos, but that its board will “investigate” his claims that its executives attempted to blackmail him by threatening to release nude photos of the Amazon CEO.
The Amazon CEO published a blog post Thursday accusing the National Enquirer of “extortion and blackmail.”
“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos,” American Media said in a statement Friday morning. “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.”
AMI’s board of directors is made up of four men: David Pecker, Evan Ratner, Barry Schwartz, and David Hughes.
Pecker, AMI’s chairman and CEO, has been at the center of the controversy. He’s a longtime ally of Donald Trump, who has been critical of Bezos, Amazon, and The Washington Post. Pecker was reportedly granted immunity in a deal with federal prosecutors investigating payments to two women who said they had affairs with Trump.
Another person on the board also has links to Trump: David Hughes once served as the chief financial officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts, up until it filed for bankruptcy in September 2014.
‘No thank you, Mr. Pecker’
On Thursday, Bezos surprised everyone by publishing a blog post titled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker” on Medium that detailed the National Enquirer’s threats to publish the billionaire’s nude photos.
Bezos wrote that AMI threatened to release the photos unless he stopped investigating who leaked his personal text messages to the National Enquirer. The texts between Bezos and former TV host Lauren Sanchez ended up in the paper’s exposé published days after the Amazon CEO announced his divorce.
Instead of striking a deal, Bezos essentially decided to turn the tables entirely, risking the eventual leak of nude photos of himself and Sanchez in order to stop the alleged extortion and blackmail attempts in their tracks. So far, no leaked photos of Bezos have been published.
“I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out,” Bezos wrote in the post.
The story that started it all
The National Enquirer got the scoop on the details of Bezos’ affair with Sanchez, but it’s the circumstances around how the publication obtained that information that’s front and center of Bezos’ investigation.
Bezos’ private investigators, led by security expert Gavin de Becker, previously ruled out the possibility that Bezos’ phone was hacked. The investigation has also looked at Lauren Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, a Trump supporter who works as a Hollywood talent manager and has corresponded with Roger Stone and Carter Page. Mr. Sanchez has denied any involvement in the leak of his sister’s text messages with Bezos, and has instead said that the “deep state” could be behind the leak of Bezos’ text messages. But De Becker said he’s not taking the claim seriously.
But the most explosive claim by De Becker is that he has floated the possibility that the National Inquirer’s investigation into Bezos’ affair was politically motivated.
In his blog post, Bezos says AMI also wanted him to take back that claim in exchange for not releasing his nude photos.
The Amazon CEO also appears to hint at a Saudi Arabian connection, writing: “Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is ‘apoplectic’ about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.”
In an appearance Thursday night on MSNBC, The Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia said De Becker has also said it’s possible that a “government entity” is to blame for the leak of the texts.
“[Gavin de Becker] has provided us with some very interesting insights into the backstages of this whole drama, including the investigation that has taken place,” Roig-Franzia said on MSNBC. “He does not believe that Jeff Bezos’ phone was hacked. He thinks it’s possible that a government entity might have gotten hold of his text messages.”
Here’s the email Bezos said he received from AMI, describing the photos:
From: Howard, Dylan [[email protected]] (Chief Content Officer, AMI)
Sent: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 3:33 PM
To: Martin Singer (litigation counsel for Mr. de Becker)
Subject:. Jeff Bezos & Ms. Lauren Sanchez Photos
CONFIDENTIAL & NOT FOR DISTRIBIUTION
I am leaving the office for the night. I will be available on my cell - 917 XXX-XXXX.
However, in the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumours of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering.
In addition to the “below the belt selfie - otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick'” - The Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:
· Mr. Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.
· Ms. Sanchez response - a photograph of her smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.
· A shirtless Mr. Bezos holding his phone in his left hand - while wearing his wedding ring. He’s wearing either tight black cargo pants or shorts - and his semi-erect manhood is penetrating the zipper of said garment.
· A full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks, with his phone in his left hand - while wearing his wedding ring.
· A selfie of Mr. Bezos fully clothed.
· A full-length scantily-clad body shot with short trunks.
· A naked selfie in a bathroom - while wearing his wedding ring. Mr. Bezos is wearing nothing but a white towel - and the top of his pubic region can be seen.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a two-piece red bikini with gold detail dress revealing her cleavage.
It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail - and quickly.
Here are emails Bezos said he received from the National Enquirer publisher, laying out the terms for withholding publication of the photos:
From: Fine, Jon [[email protected]] (Deputy General Counsel, AMI)
Sent: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 5:57 PM
To: Martin Singer (Mr de Becker’s attorney)
Subject: Re: EXTERNAL* RE: Bezos et al / American Media et al
Here are our proposed terms:
1. A full and complete mutual release of all claims that American Media, on the one hand, and Jeff Bezos and Gavin de Becker (the “Bezos Parties”), on the other, may have against each other.
2. A public, mutually-agreed upon acknowledgment from the Bezos Parties, released through a mutually-agreeable news outlet, affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility.
3. AM agrees not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos (the “Unpublished Materials”).
4. AM affirms that it undertook no electronic eavesdropping in connection with its reporting and has no knowledge of such conduct.
5. The agreement is completely confidential.
6. In the case of a breach of the agreement by one or more of the Bezos Parties, AM is released from its obligations under the agreement, and may publish the Unpublished Materials.
7. Any other disputes arising out of this agreement shall first be submitted to JAMS mediation in California
Deputy General Counsel, Media
American Media, LLC
Jon P. Fine
Deputy General Counsel, Media
O: (212) 743-6513 C: (347) 920-6541
February 5, 2019
Martin D. Singer
Laveley & Singer
Re: Jeff Bezos / American Media, LLC, et al.
Dear Mr. Singer:
I write in response to your February 4, 2019, letter to Dylan Howard, and to address serious concerns we have regarding the continuing defamatory activities of your client and his representatives regarding American Media’s motivations in its recent reporting about your client.
As a primary matter, please be advised that our newsgathering and reporting on matters involving your client, including any use of your client’s “private photographs,” has been, and will continue to be, consistent with applicable laws. As you know, “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies . . . for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting . . . is not an infringement of copyright.” 17 USC Sec. 107. With millions of Americans having a vested interest in the success of Amazon, of which your client remains founder, chairman, CEO, and president, an exploration of Mr. Bezos’ judgment as reflected by his texts and photos is indeed newsworthy and in the public interest.
Beyond the copyright issues you raise, we also find it necessary to address various unsubstantiated defamatory statements and scurrilous rumours attributed to your client’s representatives in the press suggesting that “strong leads point to political motives”1 in the publication of The National Enquirer story. Indeed, you yourself declared the “politically motivated underpinnings” of our reporting to be “self-evident” in your correspondence on Mr. de Becker’s behalf to Mr. Howard dated January 31, 2019.
Once again, as I advised you in my February 1 response to your January 31 correspondence, American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise. Simply put, this was and is a news story.
Yet, it is our understanding that your client’s representatives, including the Washington Post, continue to pursue and to disseminate these false and spurious allegations in a manner that is injurious to American Media and its executives.
Accordingly, we hereby demand that you cease and desist such defamatory conduct immediately. Any further dissemination of these false, vicious, speculative and unsubstantiated statements is done at your client’s peril. Absent the immediate cessation of the defamatory conduct, we will have no choice but to pursue all remedies available under applicable law.
As I advised previously, we stand by the legality of our newsgathering and reporting on this matter of public interest and concern. Moreover, American Media is undeterred from continuing its reporting on a story that is unambiguously in the public interest - a position Mr. Bezos clearly appreciates as reflected in Boies Schiller January 9 letter to American Media stating that your client “does not intend to discourage reporting about him” and “supports journalistic efforts.”
That said, if your client agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behaviour, we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession. Dylan Howard stands ready to discuss the matter at your convenience.
All other rights, claims, counterclaims and defences are specifically reserved and not waived.
Read more about Bezos’ war with the National Enquirer below:
- Here are the six craziest things we learned from Jeff Bezos’ blog post accusing the National Enquirer of ‘extortion and blackmail’
- Read all the emails Jeff Bezos says the National Enquirer sent to ‘blackmail’ him
- These are the main players in the explosive saga of Jeff Bezos’ love life and his war with the National Enquirer
- Jeff Bezos essentially accused the National Enquirer of having a political motive for exposing his affair, and insinuated a Trump connection
- Jeff Bezos annihilated the National Enquirer’s bid to blackmail him, using a playbook perfected by pop stars, Kim Kardashian, and ordinary women
- ‘Now the reality is hitting them, and they’re freaking out’: The National Enquirer’s former LA bureau chief says the tabloid is in over its head with Jeff Bezos
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