Amazon CEO accuses USA tabloid of extortion and blackmail over revealing pictures

In a post on Medium.com, Amazon owner and CEO, Jeff Bezos, accused the tabloid National Enquirer of threatening him for his investigation of them.

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".

The supermarket tabloid last month reported Bezos had an extramarital affair with a former news anchor, publishing a trove of private text messages. Since then, private investigators have been looking into how the Enquirer got the texts.

In his Medium post, Bezos wrote: "Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I've chose to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten". "Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary". The tech magnate also said that AMI's ties to President Donald Trump suggest that the publisher has political motivations.

Mr Bezos has been the target of criticism from USA president Donald Trump over the Post's critical coverage of the White House, and AMI has admitted that it engaged in what is known as "catch-and-kill" practices to help Trump become president.

The Enquirer then followed up with leaked text messages between the two, some of which allegedly dated back until April of a year ago.

That prompted Bezos to launch an investigation into the Enquirer, and how it was able to obtain such intimate material. The headline in the Bezos-owned Washington Post says "Bezos makes extortion allegation".

In an interview with the Daily Beast, De Becker said that "strong leads point to political motives" and that he was interested in Lauren Sanchez's brother Michael, a vocal supporter of Trump with links to his inner circle, as a possible perpetrator.

"The National Enquirer has been doggedly investigating this story for four months and the extraordinary details and evidence uncovered by our team, and presented to Mr. Bezos' representatives for comment early this week, underscores the kind of investigative reporting that the publication has always been known for", a spokesman says.

Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the allegations potentially put prosecutors in an awkward position because of the deal they had already cut with AMI.

Mr. Bezos wrote that this week, the tabloid's editor, Dylan Howard, e-mailed an attorney for Mr. Bezos's long-time security consultant to describe photos the Enquirer "obtained during our newsgathering". Howard also said that AMI did not level any threats against "either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story".

"These communications cement AMI's long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and goal of true journalism", Bezos wrote in his blog post.

White House representatives did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment about Bezos' post. President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets.

A person familiar with the National Enquirer's operation told CNN Business that similar accusations of blackmail might come to light. In exchange for a promise to not publish embarrassing photos obtained from his text messages, AMI's general counsel Jon Fine asked for Bezos and his lawyer for a statement "affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM's coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces".

Bezos' revelation steps up a war of words with a confidant of U.S. President Donald Trump, who's been critical of Amazon and its founder.

  • Rogelio Becker