Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon.com Inc, has accused the owner of the National Enquirer of trying to blackmail him with the threat of publishing "intimate photos" he allegedly sent to his girlfriend unless he said in public that the supermarket tabloid's reporting on him was not politically motivated.
However, Bezos said that "rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I've chose to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten".
Bezos hired a team of investigators to look into how, late a year ago, the Enquirer obtained the raunchy text messages he exchanged with Lauren Sanchez while still married to his longtime wife. Afterwards, Bezos says he hired investigator Gavin de Becker to look into how the publication got a hold of their private communications. (That's the fig-leaf justification given by the Enquirer's lawyer.) But because the Enquirer's lawyer offered not to publish the photos in exchange for Bezos doing something valuable for them - namely, a statement from Bezos and his companies "that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM's coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces" - we may have something actionable here.
Bezos's investigators have suggested the Enquirer's coverage of his affair was politically motivated.
"Of course I don't want personal photos published, but I also won't participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favours, political attacks, and corruption". Included, Mr Howard wrote, were photos that showed Ms Sanchez simulating an oral sex scene and Mr Bezos clad in just a white towel.
A spokesman and an attorney for AMI did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
And in his Medium post, Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, pointed to AMI and David Pecker's previous cooperation with Trump - including payments made to suppress negative stories, now under investigation by federal prosecutors. Do you see how much I like writing "Pecker"?
Bezos said in his Medium post that the tabloid threatened to keep the photos and publish them in the future "if we ever deviate from (the) lie" that politics played no role in the Enquirer's pursuit of Bezos' relationship with Lauren Sanchez.
In an April 2018 piece for The New Yorker, Farrow detailed the relationship between Pecker and Trump and said the magazine bought and buried stories to help his 2016 presidential campaign.
The Washington Post has published many articles critical of the president. Bezos commissioned de Becker - his longtime security consultant - to investigate how the material fell into the Enquirer's hands.
It would give no editor pleasure to send this email.
Bezos usually stays out of the public eye, frequently delegating announcements and public Amazon business updates to his executives.
Instead of making a deal with AMI, Bezos made a decision to go public, writing: "If in my position I can't stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?"