National Enquirer Publisher Promises Investigation After Bezos Claims Extortion

He detailed the accusations in a post titled 'No thank you, Mr. Pecker'

Bezos blasted the National Enquirer in a Medium post Thursday night. Getty Images

Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post and founder of Amazon, has accused The National Enquirer of extortion and blackmail.

Bezos, in a lengthy Medium post on Thursday evening, detailed how the publication, led by David Pecker and owned by parent company American Media Inc., told Bezos’ team that it would release more texts and photos from his extramarital relationship unless he agreed to several conditions.

The board of American Media determined that an investigation will be launched and “appropriate action” will be taken, the company said in a statement this morning.

“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos. Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him. Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims,” the company said in a statement.

The National Enquirer first revealed several text messages between Bezos and a woman named Lauren Sanchez after Bezos announced that he and his wife were divorcing after 25 years of marriage. Bezos, in the Medium post, said that he asked an investigator, named Gavin de Becker, to find out how the tabloid got a hold of the information.

De Becker confirmed to The Daily Beast, which first reported the investigation, that early leads pointed “to political motives.” American Media Inc. did not initially return requests for comment.

Bezos, in his Medium post, made a point to acknowledge how some view him, given that he owns The Washington Post, which has been steadfast in its coverage of the Trump administration.

“My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me,” Bezos said. “It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy.” Bezos also went on to say that he doesn’t regret purchasing the paper, and will always view it as something he is “most proud of.”

Bezos shared emails from AMI, including from Dylan Howard, chief content officer, at the company. In it, Howard details the photos that the publication intended to release in what Bezos interpreted as a way to dissuade Amazon shareholders from investing.

AMI legal counsel told Bezos’ team that the photos would be released unless he, among other things, released a statement that said there was no basis for suggesting the company’s coverage was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”

Of course, AMI’s tactics for sourcing news made national headlines when Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michal Cohen, pleaded guilty in August after he helped arrange a payment to a former Playboy model with Pecker, in a process called “catch and kill” in which the tabloid bought the rights to the story so that it wouldn’t be published elsewhere.

“These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism,” Bezos said. “Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”

The post garnered 118,000 “claps” on Medium.

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.