Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has gone public about a brazen attempt at blackmail by the National Enquirer, which threatened to leak nude photos of him and his mistress in retaliation for negative coverage in the Washington Post.
On Thursday, Bezos posted a pair of letters he received from Enquirer parent company AMI, threatening to leak racy photos of the Amazon tycoon (and WaPo owner) and his lover Lauren Sanchez if he did not publish a statement to the effect that Post reporters “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
Last month, Bezos announced he was divorcing his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie, after his affair with Lauren Sanchez became public.
“In addition to the ‘below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’ — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images,” said one email Bezos received after a verbal warning from an AMI employee. The writer – who signed this apparent extortion attempt with the name Dylan Howard – warned Bezos that AMI also had “a photograph of [Sanchez] smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene,” a shirtless and semi-aroused Bezos, a full-body Bezos selfie, a nude bathroom selfie in which “the top of his pubic region can be seen,” a cleavage-baring shot of Sanchez including “a glimpse of her nether region,” and a bikini shot of Sanchez with obligatory cleavage.
“It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly,” Howard wrote.
Bezos only half-jokingly called the email an “offer I couldn’t refuse.” He chose to publish the emails in their entirety instead.
“Numerous people” reportedly contacted Bezos’s investigators with similar stories of intimidation, acknowledging that they were forced to capitulate – lacking the billions that would cushion Bezos if the photos were to come out. Bezos said that in his case, the extortion was compounded by a threat to “keep the photos on hand and publish them in the future if we ever deviate from” the line that AMI’s coverage was not politically motivated.
Bezos was blindsided last month when the Enquirer leaked text messages between him and his mistress, hours after the breakup of the tycoon’s marriage. Within a week after bankrolling an investigation into how the tabloid had obtained the “intimate texts,” he claims he learned “political motives” were the reason for the leak – that AMI head David Pecker resented the Post’s ongoing criticism of President Donald Trump’s administration and his own company’s cozy relationship with the Saudi royal family.
Clearly overestimating Bezos’ own involvement in the day-to-day running of the paper, Pecker took his revenge on the man at the top. “Mr. Pecker is ‘apoplectic’ about our investigation,” and, in particular “the Saudi angle,” Bezos says he heard from another AMI employee.
Alleged blackmail campaign or not, Bezos insisted he had no regrets over buying the Washington Post.