Jeff Bezos in 2018. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty
On Thursday, Jeff Bezos—the incredibly powerful founder of Amazon, the owner of the Washington Post, and the world’s richest man—took to Medium to announce that the National Enquirer had tried to blackmail him.
Last month, following the announcement that Bezos was getting a divorce, the Enquirer published some sexts exchanged between Bezos and his alleged mistress Lauren Sanchez. According to Bezos’s Medium post, the billionaire then “engaged investigators to learn how those texts were obtained, and to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer.” Earlier this month, other media outlets, including the Post itself, reported that the Enquirer‘s work on Bezos was rumored to be a politically motivated attack, a theory grounded in the fact that the Enquirer is owned by American Media, Inc. (AMI), whose CEO, David Pecker, is a longtime Donald Trump ally—last year AMI admitted to working to get Trump elected by paying to bury stories of women who allegedly had affairs with the reality TV star.
According to Bezos’s post, titled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” AMI responded to Bezos’s investigation and the Post‘s coverage of the whole affair by threatening to publish what an alleged email from an AMI executive described as a “d*ck pick” along with photos that included, among others:
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 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.
Bezos went on to reproduce an email that he says is from an AMI lawyer stating that if he and his representatives release a statement “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,” the company won’t publish the photos.
This apparent effort to blackmail one of the most powerful people in the world—by threatening to publish embarrassing photos documenting an affair that already might have ended his marriage and that everyone already knows about—did not work, as evidenced by the Medium post itself.
In the wake of that post, even people who are habitual critics of Bezos and Amazon praised the move to publicly shame his alleged extortionists rather than give in. According to Bezos, many people have given in to AMI when faced with just such a choice: “Numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake,” he wrote.
If true, Bezos’s allegations shed light on a practice that is beyond the pale even by the traditionally not particularly nice standards of tabloid journalism—which is all the more concerning because of that tabloid’s owner’s close ties to the president of the United States. Of course, there were lots of takeaways from the Medium post, some of them nuanced, some of them, well:
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