The richest man on earth accused the nation’s main grocery store tabloid writer of “extortion and blackmail” on Thursday, laying out a idea that introduced collectively worldwide intrigue, White Home politics, nude images and amorous textual content messages.
Jeff Bezos, the founding father of Amazon and the proprietor of The Washington Put up, made his accusations in opposition to American Media Inc., the corporate behind The Nationwide Enquirer, in a prolonged put up on the web platform Medium. Final month, The Enquirer printed an exposé of Mr. Bezos’ extramarital affair with Lauren Sanchez, a former host of the Fox present “So You Suppose You Can Dance.”
The headline of Mr. Bezos’ put up — “No thanks, Mr. Pecker” — focused David J. Pecker, the top of the tabloid firm. Within the typically digressive textual content that adopted, he accused American Media of threatening to publish graphic pictures of Mr. Bezos, together with a “below-the-belt selfie,” if he didn’t publicly affirm that The Enquirer’s reporting on his affair was not motivated by political issues.
“Properly, that obtained my consideration,” Mr. Bezos wrote of the risk. “However not in the best way they doubtless hoped.”
The inciting occasion on this battle of American titans was the Jan. 28 version of The Enquirer, which hit grocery store racks on Jan. 10, sooner or later after Mr. Bezos and his spouse of 25 years, MacKenzie, introduced that they’d be getting a divorce. The tabloid devoted 11 pages to the story of Mr. Bezos’ affair with Ms. Sanchez, calling it “the most important investigation in Enquirer historical past!”
The Enquirer boasted that it had tracked the couple “across five states and 40,000 miles,” furtively observing them as they boarded private jets, rode in limousines and repaired to “five-star hotel hideaways.” The article was illustrated with paparazzi shots of the unwitting couple as they stepped onto a tarmac and arrived together at what the tabloid called “their beachfront love nest in Santa Monica.”
The tabloid also published amorous text messages that Mr. Bezos had sent to Ms. Sanchez. “I am crazy about you,” he wrote, according to The Enquirer. “All of you.”
Tech executives are not the usual subjects of Enquirer covers, and the story set off speculation in Washington and New York media circles that the tabloid’s aggressive coverage of Mr. Bezos was tied to the closeness of Mr. Pecker, The Enquirer’s chief, and the White House. That alliance came fully to light last year in the legal drama involving hush payments to women alleging affairs with Mr. Trump.
[Our media columnist examined the unlikely power of The National Enquirer in December.]
Mr. Trump and Mr. Pecker were longtime friends — but the relationship between the two was said to be frayed in recent months, when American Media’s leadership entered into a deal with federal prosecutors looking into the company’s role in the hush payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Pecker and his associates had helped orchestrate the deals involving two women who alleged past affairs with Mr. Trump in “catch and kill” deals: the former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the porn star Stormy Daniels.
After The Enquirer made his private life public, giving Twitter wags and late-night hosts the chance to weigh in on his high-flown texting style, Mr. Bezos sprang into action, starting his own investigation of the tabloid’s motives and how it had come to possess his texts to Ms. Sanchez.
The Amazon founder, who at last count was worth $136 billion, suggested that he would spare no expense in taking the fight to the tabloid publisher. Leading the investigation was Gavin de Becker, Mr. Bezos’ longtime security chief, whom Mr. Bezos said he had instructed “to proceed with whatever budget he needed to pursue the facts in this matter.”
It was a bold move for someone who has often tried to evade the spotlight, even amid the frequent insults hurled his way by Mr. Trump, who has labeled the newspaper that Mr. Bezos purchased in 2013 as “The Amazon Post” and recently called him “Jeff Bozo” in a tweet.
[Mr. de Becker has suggested celebrities on threats for many years.]
Mr. de Becker confirmed to The Every day Beast on Jan. 31 that he was main the investigation into the matter of how the Enquirer had obtained the textual content messages. Not lengthy afterward, The Put up ready an article exploring competing theories in regards to the motivation behind the publication of the tawdry story.
American Media made the following transfer, providing Mr. Bezos a proposal that it wrongly assumed he couldn’t refuse. And if he did say no? A future challenge of The Enquirer would make him very sad, with the selfies and extra of the steamy texts it had apparently obtained.
“After all I don’t need private images printed, however I additionally gained’t take part of their well-known follow of blackmail, political favors, political assaults and corruption,” Mr. Bezos wrote. “I favor to face up, roll this log over and see what crawls out.”
Amazon declined to remark. American Media didn’t reply to a request for remark.
By utilizing Medium to disclose The Enquirer’s backstage maneuvers, Mr. Bezos — one of many world’s strongest tech titans and the proprietor of one of many nation’s most influential newspapers — confirmed the most effective technique of communications generally is a easy weblog put up.
Generally rambling — whereas additionally exhibiting the occasional aptitude of tabloid columnists of yore — the Bezos put up pulled collectively random strands of the yearlong authorized drama involving the president, American Media and the allegedly unlawful funds to ladies.
That federal inquiry resulted in a responsible plea from Mr. Trump’s former legal professional and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who stated he had paid Ms. Daniels $130,000 and requested American Media to pay Ms. McDougal $150,000 on the president’s course, to guard his election prospects.
Federal prosecutors with the Southern District of New York decided that the American Media fee was an unlawful company contribution. As a result of the corporate cooperated with prosecutors, the authorities didn’t deliver fees. However they made American Media signal onto a non-prosecution settlement, during which it affirmed that it had made the fee to “affect the election.”
That settlement, signed in September, stipulated that A.M.I. “shall commit no crimes in anyway” for 3 years, and that if it did, “A.M.I. shall thereafter be topic to prosecution for any federal legal violation of which this workplace has data.”
If American Media’s risk to publish the private images of Mr. Bezos is set to have been legal, it will discover its take care of federal prosecutors in jeopardy.
“One factor we might be sure of is these allegations will likely be checked out onerous by the federal prosecutors,” stated Jeff Tsai, a former federal prosecutor. “The character of that non-prosecution settlement — to not commit any crimes — was to provide A.M.I. the chance to actually suppose onerous in regards to the nature of its practices.”
He added, “You possibly can typically get a go from federal prosecutors; it’s a lot tougher to get two passes.”
The settlement put American Media, Mr. Pecker and Dylan Howard, the corporate’s chief content material officer, at odds with Mr. Trump, which served to tamp down hypothesis that the Enquirer had someway pursued the Bezos story in alliance with the president and his allies.
On Feb. 5, although, that chance surfaced in The Put up. Mr. de Becker instructed the paper that the Enquirer story had begun with a “politically motivated’’ leak. Mr. de Becker has served as a protector to Olivia Newton-John, Michael J. Fox and family and friends of Ronald Reagan. He declined to remark.
American Media appeared to warn Mr. Bezos away from elevating any political hypothesis in an electronic mail to Mr. de Becker’s legal professional, which he shared on Medium. Within the letter, which he quoted in full, a lawyer for the corporate, Jon Advantageous, demanded that Mr. Bezos state publicly that he had “no data or foundation for suggesting that” American Media’s “protection was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” Mr. Advantageous has labored as a lawyer at Amazon.
In his put up Mr. Bezos additionally appeared to suggest that the tabloid firm was doing the bidding of Saudi Arabia, quoting from a New York Occasions report final 12 months: “After Mr. Trump grew to become president, he rewarded Mr. Pecker’s loyalty with a White Home dinner to which the media government introduced a visitor with essential ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia. On the time, Mr. Pecker was pursuing enterprise there whereas additionally trying to find financing for acquisitions.”
The Put up has been reporting determinedly on intelligence assessments that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the grisly homicide of the Saudi dissident — and Put up world opinion contributor — Jamal Khashoggi.