Wed, Feb 13, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Clash between Trump and Bezos takes a new turn

By Nick Turner and Olga Kharif  /  Bloomberg

A long-simmering feud between US President Donald Trump and Inc chief executive officer Jeff Bezos took a bizarre turn after the multibillionaire accused allies of the US president of brazenly trying to extort him.

In a surprising move that lit up social media feeds worldwide, Bezos published a blog post on Thursday last week, alleging that the publisher of the National Enquirer tried to blackmail him with embarrassing photographs of him and a woman who was not his wife — including sexually charged selfies.

The usually media-shy executive also published explicit e-mail exchanges and descriptions of the photos, saying he would rather be embarrassed than extorted.

He also pointed to reports that the Enquirer’s publisher — American Media Inc chief executive officer David Pecker — has worked on behalf of the US president.

Pecker “recently entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice related to their role in the so-called ‘catch and kill’ process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign,” Bezos said in his post.

Trump in turn has frequently criticized Bezos and his newspaper, the Washington Post, for everything from taxes and shipping fees to printing “fake news.”

On Twitter last month, Trump called the tech executive “Jeff Bozo.”

“It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos said in his post. “President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets.”

American Media said in a statement on Friday that it believes it acted lawfully in reporting the story of Bezos and his extramarital affair, but that it would investigate claims by the chief executive officer of extortion and blackmail.

“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr Bezos,” the company said. “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,” it added.

Asked if the US president was aware of Bezos’ accusations, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters: “I’m not sure if he’s aware of it, and we’re not going to get into a conversation about something between Jeff Bezos and a tabloid.”

Asked when Trump last spoke with Pecker, Gidley said: “I’m not aware of it.”

Ironically, becoming a Trump nemesis does not seem to have hurt the Amazon founder’s fortunes. Since Trump’s election, no one has made more money than Bezos, who became the world’s richest person thanks to a gold rush of e-commerce, Web advertising and cloud computing.

Bezos’ wealth is valued at US$133.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Trump has threatened Amazon with antitrust prosecution, but nothing has materialized. The US president also pushed the US Postal Service to charge the e-commerce giant more for package delivery, based on his belief that Amazon has a sweetheart deal.

That led only to a US Department of the Treasury report proposing that the post office increase rates.

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