Jeff Bezos at the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 13, 2017.
By Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
Last month, the Daily Beast reported that tech billionaire Jeff Bezos had launched an investigation to determine how his private messages with a woman who was not his wife ended up in the pages of The National Enquirer, the hunch being that it was a politically motivated hit job. That Bezos, the richest man in the world, would put resources into determining how his sexts with Lauren Sanchez found their way into the world’s sleaziest tabloid was not entirely surprising, and is probably what anyone else in his position would to do, too. That he would publish a lengthy post on Medium revealing the Enquirer’s attempts to seemingly extort him if he didn’t drop the investigation was a bit more unexpected!
According to Bezos’s post, his legal and investigatory team was approached by American Media Inc., publisher of The National Enquirer, with a demand to halt their investigation and tell the press they had “no knowledge or basis for suggesting that A.M.I.’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” And if Bezos refused? Well, A.M.I. would have no choice but to make certain photos, detailed by its “Chief Content Officer” in the e-mail below, public:
From: Howard, Dylan [email@example.com] (Chief Content Officer, A.M.I.)
Sent: Tuesday, February 5, 2019, 3:33 P.M.
To: Martin Singer (litigation counsel for Mr. de Becker)
Subject: Jeff Bezos & Ms. Lauren Sanchez Photos
CONFIDENTIAL & NOT FOR DISTRIBIUTION [sic]
I am leaving the office for the night. I will be available on my cell — 917 XXX-XXXX.
However, in the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering.
In addition to the “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d–k pick’” — the Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:
· Mr. Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.
· Ms. Sanchez response — a photograph of her smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.
· 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.
· A full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks, with his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring.
· A selfie of Mr. Bezos fully clothed.
· A full-length scantily-clad body shot with short trunks.
· A naked selfie in a bathroom — while wearing his wedding ring. Mr. Bezos is wearing nothing but a white towel — and the top of his pubic region can be seen.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a two-piece red bikini with gold detail dress revealing her cleavage.
It would give no editor pleasure to send this e-mail. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.
In another e-mail, A.M.I.’s legal counsel lays out the terms of the extortion a bit more precisely:
From: Fine, Jon [firstname.lastname@example.org] (Deputy General Counsel, A.M.I.)
Sent: Wednesday, February 6, 2019, 5:57 P.M.
To: Martin Singer (Mr de Becker’s attorney)
Subject: Re: EXTERNAL* RE: Bezos et al. / American Media et al.
Here are our proposed terms:
- A full and complete mutual release of all claims that American Media, on the one hand, and Jeff Bezos and Gavin de Becker (the “Bezos Parties”), on the other, may have against each other.
- A public, mutually-agreed upon acknowledgment from the Bezos Parties, released through a mutually-agreeable news outlet, affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that A.M.’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility.
- A.M. agrees not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos (the “Unpublished Materials”).
- A.M. affirms that it undertook no electronic eavesdropping in connection with its reporting and has no knowledge of such conduct.
- The agreement is completely confidential.
- In the case of a breach of the agreement by one or more of the Bezos Parties, A.M. is released from its obligations under the agreement, and may publish the Unpublished Materials.
- Any other disputes arising out of this agreement shall first be submitted to JAMS mediation in California
Unfortunately for Trump’s favorite publication, Bezos chose not to comply. “These communications cement A.M.I.’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism,” Bezos wrote, explaining his decision. “Of course 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.”
A.M.I., which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, is currently embroiled in a legal controversy involving publisher David Pecker’s friendship with Donald Trump and the Enquirer’s alleged practice of “catch and kill,” or purposefully buying and burying incriminating stories. In August, Pecker cut an immunity deal with federal prosecutors who are probing an incident in which Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, negotiated a hush-money payment with A.M.I. to bury allegations by former Playboy model Karen McDougal that she had an affair with Trump. (Trump has denied the claim.) Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations related to his role in facilitating payments to McDougal and to porn actress Stormy Daniels.