Jeff Bezos Accuses National Enquirer of Using Unpublished Nude Photos as Blackmail

Photo: Cliff Owen (AP)

The saga of Jeff Bezos’s very public divorce slouches onward. The Amazon CEO published a personal post on Medium this evening containing leaked emails purported to be from the National Enquirer. The emails—at least one of which is marked “confidential and not for distribution”—threaten to publish revealing photos of him and his new girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, unless certain demands were met.

Just a few short weeks ago, Bezos made a strangely public announcement on Twitter about his and his wife McKenzie’s divorce. It’s now believed the purpose was to preempt a National Enquirer story detailing his extramarital tryste with TV personality Lauren Sanchez, as well as text content of messages sent between the two (the photos were alluded to in the Enquirer’s stories on the subject.)

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Bezos has since retained the services of Gavin de Becker to investigate the source of the leaked texts, as well as determine if any political motives may have played a part in their release. The clear source of speculation, of course, is the known connection between the Enquirer and Donald Trump’s circle of power. A cursory glance at the president’s twitter feed will tell you all you need to know about his feelings towards Bezos, or the Washington Post, the newspaper the mogul bought in 2013 for $250 million.

These emails, which Bezos claims were meant to kill the investigation into the Enquirer’s source or sources, contain an itemized list of embarrassing photographs. For example:

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

And:

Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.

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While a second email, republished on Medium, makes the threat explicit:

American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise [...] Any further dissemination of these false, vicious, speculative and unsubstantiated statements is done at your client’s peril.

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“If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” Bezos editorialized in his post, “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.”

Intentionally or not, Bezos did not redact the phone number and email address of the Deputy General Counsel for Enquirer parent company American Media, LLC. We’ve reached out to him for confirmation of the veracity of these emails, as well as additional comment, and will update if we hear back.

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Update 2/8/19 9:53am EST: American Media, LLC made the following statement available to the public 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. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.

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Bryan Menegus

Senior reporter. Tech + labor /// bryan.menegus [at] gizmodo.com Keybase: keybase.io/bryangm Securedrop: http://gmg7jl25ony5g7ws.onion/

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