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Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer owner of blackmail

The Guardian Inc chief executive officer Jeff Bezos speaks at a conference in Washington on March 7, 2017.

Photo: Reuters Inc chief executive officer Jeff Bezos, has accused the owner of the National Enquirer of “extortion and blackmail”, alleging that lawyers for American Media Inc (AMI) CEO David Pecker threatened the tabloid would publish text messages and intimate images if Bezos did not halt an investigation into how it had obtained those files.

In a lengthy Medium blogpost titled “No thank you, Mr Pecker,” Bezos accused AMI, which publishes the National Enquirer, of telling him “they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation.”

Bezos, who is the world richest man and also owns the Washington Post, became the subject of tabloid fodder last month after he and his wife announced they were divorcing.

Shortly after, the National Enquirer published “intimate text messages” revealing Bezos’ relationship with Lauren Sanchez, a former television anchor.

After the tabloid published his personal messages, Bezos retained private security consultant Gavin de Becker “to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer,” he revealed in his blogpost.

Bezos said an “AMI leader” subsequently told him that Pecker was “apoplectic” about the investigation.

“My lawyers argued that AMI has no right to publish photos since any person holds the copyright to their own photos, and since the photos in themselves don’t add anything newsworthy,” Bezos wrote.

The Amazon CEO said AMI’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, then e-mailed threats to Bezos’ lawyer, Martin Singer.

“[I]n the interests of expediating [sic] 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,” Howard wrote.

The e-mail, which Bezos published in full, with redactions of personal information, went on to say that the Enquirer had obtained a “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘dick pick’” as well as nine other images.

Bezos has been a frequent target of US President Donald Trump and the Amazon CEO’s security team has suggested the National Enquirer leak was politically motivated.

Pecker is a longtime confidante of Trump.

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