Jeff Bezos has told his side of the story. Now David Pecker is responding.
Pecker, the head of American Media Inc., controls the National Enquirer. In a blockbuster blog post titled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker,” Bezos on Thursday evening accused Pecker of an “extortion and blackmail” attempt.
American Media said in a statement on Friday morning that the company “believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos.”
“Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him,” the company said. “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.”
The company did not immediately elaborate on what the four-man board will be doing. Pecker is one of the board members.
On Thursday night Bezos backed up his “extortion” charge with copies of what he said were multiple emails from American Media.
The story is incredibly complicated, but it boils down to this: The Enquirer has embarrassing photos and texts of Bezos and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez. When the Enquirer was about to reveal the existence of the relationship last month, Bezos and his wife, author MacKenzie Bezos, announced that they were divorcing “after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation.”
The Enquirer story hit later that day. Bezos put his security chief Gavin de Becker in charge of an investigation into the leaks. According to Bezos’ account, American Media was so troubled by de Becker’s probe and his public comments about it — and his conclusion that the Enquirer’s coverage was “politically motivated” — that it tried to shut up Bezos and de Becker.
“They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation,” Bezos wrote on Medium. He called this “extortion and blackmail.”
In one of the emails Bezos published, an AMI lawyer proposed that Bezos would disavow any belief that the Enquirer’s coverage was “politically motivated,” and in exchange, AMI would not “publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos.”
Rather than accepting the deal, Bezos went public, making a bet that sunlight is the best disinfectant in a sordid case like this.
“These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism,” Bezos wrote.
“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.”
So now everyone is waiting to see.
The Enquirer’s website doesn’t say a word about this controversy.
But the allegations are on the front page of every major paper on Friday. The headline in the Bezos-owned Washington Post says “Bezos makes extortion allegation.”
The New York Post and the HuffPost had more fun: “Bezos Exposes Pecker.”