Jeff Bezos alleged Thursday that “top people” at The National Enquirer tried to blackmail him by threatening to publish nude photos unless the Amazon chief ended an investigation into how the publication obtained text messages between him and his girlfriend.
In a highly personal blog post, Bezos said the publication recently threatened to publish intimate photos of him and Lauren Sanchez, a former entertainment TV host that Bezos has been linked with romantically. Bezos’ post includes email exchanges that he says proves an extortion plot against him.
“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 includes emails allegedly from National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc.
In the emails, sent to an attorney for a Bezos security consultant, an AMI executive threatened to publish the photos unless Bezos made false statements that AMI was never “politically motivated or influenced by political forces,” according to the blog post.
The Amazon chief notes that David Pecker, CEO of American Media, recently struck an immunity deal with the Justice Department to reveal President Donald Trump’s role in hush-money agreements with women ahead of the 2016 US election.
AMI admitted in December to “working in concert” with the Trump campaign to pay off a woman who accused Trump of having an affair with her in order to quash the story.
The National Enquirer was the first to print details of Bezos’ affair with Sanchez, which led to theto MacKenzie Bezos.
According to one email, the photos include “a naked selfie [of Bezos] in a bathroom – while wearing a wedding ring” and a “glimpse” of Sanchez’s “nether region,” among others.
“Well, that [the email] 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?,” Bezos writes.
The post comes amid ongoing tension between Bezos and Trump, with the president widely seen as targeting the company because Bezos owns The Washington Post, which has reported critically on the president. In April 2018, Trump Amazon of not paying its fair share of postage., after weeks of accusing
Representatives for AMI didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Medium post comes as questions are already swirling about how Bezos’ divorce could affect Amazon. If reports that he has no prenuptial agreement are true, his wife may end up with half his fortune and half his ownership in Amazon.
Potential blackmail from the same publication that first reported on Bezos’ affair adds a new layer and creates even more problems for Bezos.
First published Feb. 7, 3:50 p.m. PT
Update, 5:58 p.m.: Adds context.
Correction, 4:35 p.m.: Clarifies that AMI’s emails weren’t to Bezos directly.
CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET’s newsstand edition.
CNET en Español: Get all your tech news and reviews in Spanish.