American Media Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer, is launching a full investigation into extortion claims made by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a widely shared Medium post last night.
Bezos used his post, “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” to allege that the National Enquirer is blackmailing him by threatening to publish nude photos of himself, along with sexually suggestive photos of Lauren Sanchez, the news anchor with whom he has been having an affair. Some of the photos include “full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks” and a “naked selfie in a bathroom... wearing nothing but a white towel,” according to his Medium post.
AMI issued a statement this morning noting that the company “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,” the statement reads. “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. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.”
According to Bezos, the National Enquirer had threatened to publish the photos unless he issued a public statement denying that the report had been “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
AMI is currently embattled in an ongoing controversy over its use of “catch and kill” tactics. A publication will often buy the exclusive rights to incriminating photos or videos and pay a certain fee alongside a nondisclosure agreement to prevent a story from coming out. AMI CEO David Pecker, a close friend of President Trump, was allegedly awarded for running a “catch and kill” campaign to prevent a story about an affair Trump had with a woman from coming out just prior to his presidential campaign.
In Bezos’ Medium post, the CEO alleges that his legal team was approached by AMI’s legal team with a proposition that sounds like a typical “catch and kill” tactic. AMI’s lawyers suggested that if Bezos stopped his investigation trying to determine how the National Enquirer got his text messages in the first place, the publication wouldn’t publish the photos.
“If your client agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior, we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession,” reads one email that was sent to Bezos’ legal team.
Bezos’ full Medium post contains emails and texts that were sent to his team by AMI’s lawyers, which he says he’s making public to show how the company has tried to extort him.