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On Thursday afternoon, Jeff Bezos took to Medium to excoriate David Pecker and his company American Media Inc.—which owns the National Enquirer—for attempting “extortion and blackmail.” Rather than comply with their demands, the Amazon founder and CEO (who also owns The Washington Post) has published emails from AMI executives threatening to publish a number of embarrassing photos of Bezos and a woman the Enquirer claims is his mistress.
The kerfuffle all started several weeks ago, when the National Enquirer published text messages it alleged proved an affair between Bezos—who is married—and another woman, Lauren Sánchez. As a result, Bezos commissioned an investigation into how the paper obtained the text messages, an act which he claims has enraged Pecker. Bezos writes that AMI subsequently contacted his lawyers demanding a halt to the investigation. Should Bezos' lawyers not comply, the Enquirer would publish 10 purloined selfies of Bezos and Sanchez, one of which described as a “d*ck pick”.
The following day, Bezos writes that he received another email that he also reproduced in full on Medium. The message demands that he and his lead investigator, Gavin de Becker, make public statements to the effect that “they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI's coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and [they make] an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility.”
Instead, Bezos notes in the Medium article that Pecker and AMI have been investigated for their relationship with the Saudi Arabian government and that AMI was embroiled in the Justice Department investigation into President Trump's 2016 campaign. Pecker and AMI were granted immunity in exchange for cooperating with the investigation and revealing details about their so-called “catch and kill” practice. This practice involved buying up damaging stories about then-candidate Trump to prevent their publication by other media outlets.
As for his decision to go public, Bezos' words speak for themselves:
Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat, because there's a much more important matter involved here. If, in my position, I can't stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can? (On that point, 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.)