This week of the 4th of February 2019, has felt like we are living in the pages of an outrageous scandal magazine, with the torrid tales becoming more and more outlandish.
This latest scandal which beats them all, has a hero in the form of another billionaire Jeff Bezos, the owner Amazon and the Washington Post but who is high up on the republican President Donald Trump’s enemy’s list. His paper is one of President Trump’s favorite targets as the purported purveyor of ‘fake news.’ It has been a thorn in the side of the US president and Saudi officials for its accurate portrayal of how the Saudi Crown Prince MBS Mohammed bin Salman ordered and directed the murder of a US resident, Washington Post journalist, Jamal Kashoggi.
AMI via one of its media outlets, the National Enquirer did publish an expose displaying texts and photos between between Jeff Bezos and his mistress Lauren Sanchez which may have triggered his announced divorce with his wife of about 25 years, McKenzie. Of course, Mr. Bezos proceeded to investigate how AMI obtained the text messages. To stop this this inquiry, AMI purportedly attempted to blackmail/ extort him.
But Mr. Bezos has turned the tables by revealing how the president’s friend, David Pecker of the National Enquirer (AMI) had been attempting to extort/ blackmail him with embarrassing photos/ data. He turned hero by deciding to go public with whatever Mr. Pecker has on him, no matter how bad it may look.
There is a Saudi connection as it has been alleged that the Saudis have a financial stake in AMI/ the National Enquirer as well as a reputation for collecting salacious data for leverage. Lauren Sanchez’s brother is a known to be associated with AMI, but it’s hard to see how Mr. David Pecker of AMI would have risked being complicit in an extortion racket if it was just Mr. Sanchez’s brother who was involved.
This is a convoluted tale. Here is the rest of the story…
On February 7, 2019, Derek Wallbank of Bloomberg penned the following report, “Full Text of Bezos Statement Accusing National Enquirer of Blackmail”
“The following statement was posted by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post newspaper, to Medium. In the letter, Bezos accuses the National Enquirer and its publisher David Pecker of “extortion and blackmail.” The text is reprinted below, verbatim, with formatting edits:”
No thank you, Mr. Pecker
“Something unusual happened to me yesterday. Actually, for me it wasn’t just unusual — it was a first. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought. I’m glad they thought that, because it emboldened them to put it all in writing. Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten”.
“AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, led by David 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. Mr. Pecker and his company have also been investigated for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government.”
“And sometimes Mr. Pecker mixes it all together:”
“After Mr. Trump became president, he rewarded Mr. Pecker’s loyalty with a White House dinner to which the media executive brought a guest with important ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia. At the time, Mr. Pecker was pursuing business there while also hunting for financing for acquisitions…” NYT: David Pecker, Chief of National Enquirer’s Publisher, Is Said to Get Immunity in Trump Inquiry
“Federal investigators and legitimate media have of course suspected and proved that Mr. Pecker has used the Enquirer and AMI for political reasons. And yet AMI keeps claiming otherwise:”
“American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.”
“Of course, legitimate media have been challenging that assertion for a long time:”
“I didn’t know much about most of that a few weeks ago when intimate texts messages from me were published in the National Enquirer. I engaged investigators to learn how those texts were obtained, and to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer. As it turns out, there are now several independent investigations looking into this matter.”
“To lead my investigation, I retained Gavin de Becker. I’ve known Mr. de Becker for 20 years, his expertise in this arena is excellent, and he’s one of the smartest and most capable leaders I know. I asked him to prioritize protecting my time since I have other things I prefer to work on and to proceed with whatever budget he needed to pursue the facts in this matter.”
“Here’s a piece of context: My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy.”
“President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.(Even though The Post is a complexifier for me, I do not at all regret my investment. The Post is a critical institution with a critical mission. My stewardship of The Post and my support of its mission, which will remain unswerving, is something I will be most proud of when I’m 90 and reviewing my life, if I’m lucky enough to live that long, regardless of any complexities it creates for me.)”
“Back to the story: Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is “apoplectic” about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.”
“A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker’s apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer. They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation.”
“My lawyers argued that AMI has no right to publish photos since any person holds the copyright to their own photos, and since the photos in themselves don’t add anything newsworthy.”
“AMI’s claim of newsworthiness is that the photos are necessary to show Amazon shareholders that my business judgment is terrible. I founded Amazon in my garage 24 years ago, and drove all the packages to the post office myself. Today, Amazon employs more than 600,000 people, just finished its most profitable year ever, even while investing heavily in new initiatives, and it’s usually somewhere between the #1 and #5 most valuable company in the world. I’ll let those results speak for themselves.”
“OK, back to their threat to publish intimate photos of me. I guess we (me, my lawyers, and Gavin de Becker) didn’t react to the generalized threat with enough fear, so they sent this:”
From: Howard, Dylan (Chief Content Officer, AMI)
Sent: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 3:33 PM
To: Martin Singer (litigation counsel for Mr. de Becker)
Subject:. Jeff Bezos & Ms. Lauren Sanchez Photos
CONFIDENTIAL & NOT FOR DISTRIBIUTION
I am leaving the office for the night. I will be available on my cell — 917 XXX-XXXX.
However, in the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering.
In addition to the “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’” — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:
- Mr. Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.
- Ms. Sanchez response — a photograph of her smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.
- 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 selfie of Mr. Bezos fully clothed.
- 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.
- Ms. Sanchez wearing a two-piece red bikini with gold detail dress revealing her cleavage.
It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.
“Well, that got my attention. But not in the way they likely hoped. 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.)”
“In the AMI letters I’m making public, you’ll see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
“If we do not agree to affirmatively publicize that specific lie, they say they’ll publish the photos, and quickly. And there’s an associated threat: They’ll keep the photos on hand and publish them in the future if we ever deviate from that lie.”
“Be assured, no real journalists ever propose anything like what is happening here: I will not report embarrassing information about you if you do X for me. And if you don’t do X quickly, I’ll report the embarrassing information.”
“Nothing I might write here could tell the National Enquirer story as eloquently as their own words.”
This post was last updated on February 9, 2019.
Link to entire report: Full Text of Bezos Statement Accusing National Enquirer of Blackmail