Billionaire Jeff Bezos on Thursday accused the publisher of the American tabloid newspaper, National Enquirer of "extortion and blackmail" after it threatened to publish intimate photographs sent by the billionaire to Lauren Sanchez, whom he is said to be dating.
In the blog post published on a blogging platform, Medium, Amazon founder and owner of The Washington Post detailed his interactions with American Media Inc (AMI), the parent company of National Enquirer.
'Approached with an offer'
Jeff Bezos said that AMI, led by David Pecker, approached him with a threat to publish the photos if he did not halt an investigation into the motives behind that leak.
"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," Bezos wrote in the blog.
'Public statement with Gavin de Becker'
He added that the publication demanded him to issue a public statement along with security consultant Gavin de Becker, who is leading the probe.
"In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will 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.'"
'No thank you, Mr Pecker'
Bezos also said, "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".
"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," Bezos wrote in the post, which was entitled "No thank you, Mr Pecker" and included copies of emails from AMI.
"Be assured, no real journalists ever propose anything like what is happening here," he added.
'Catch and Kill'
Here are more excerpts from the blog:
"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."
'Pecker used Enquirer, AMI for political reasons'
"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."
Jeff Bezos and Donald Trump
"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."
'I do not regret my investment'
"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."