Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is firing back at National Enquirer owner American Media Inc. (AMI) over what he is calling an “extortion and blackmail” attempt by the tabloid.
In a lengthy post on Medium Thursday, Bezos details alleged correspondence between the lawyer for his lead investigator, Martin Singer, and Dylan Howard, the chief content officer for AMI.
In the emails posted by Bezos, Howard says the Enquirer would post a series of images it has of Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, the Amazon founder’s love interest, if Bezos did not 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.” The emails also demanded Bezos and his investigator agree that they will stop “referring to such a possibility.”
The images, according to Howard’s email posted by Bezos, include a variety of private pictures of both Bezos and Sanchez such as a “below the belt selfie” of Bezos and a picture of Sanchez “smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.”
Bezos shared the Medium post from his official Twitter account. Amazon has separately confirmed the authenticity of the post, but declined to comment further. Howard did not immediately respond to a USA TODAY request for comment.
The National Enquirer previously shared details of Bezos and Sanchez’s relationship, including romantic text messages the two had sent one another. The leak of the texts, which Bezos confirmed in his post, prompted the Amazon founder to put Gavin de Becker from his security team onto the case of investigating how the Enquirer got its hands on the messages.
Bezos claims that AMI CEO David Pecker was “apoplectic” over an investigation the Washington Post was doing into Pecker and AMI’s interest in expanding to Saudi Arabia, including AMI’s publication of a pro-Saudi Arabia tabloid last year ahead of the arrival of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Bezos also notes in his blog how Pecker “recently entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice related to their role in the so-called “Catch and Kill” process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign,” linking to a New York Times story about how Trump invited Pecker to a White House dinner in which the AMI CEO brought a guest that the Times describes as having “important ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia.”
“A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker’s apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer,” Bezos writes. “They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation.”