Ronan Farrow says National Enquirer tried to blackmail him too

Jeff Bexos

Jeff Bexos

Almost a month after the National Enquirer published a story about Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos' relationship with TV host Lauren Sanchez, Bezos has accused the outlet, its owner AMI and leader David Pecker of blackmail.

A spokesman for American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The National Enquirer published a story last month that included lurid texts between Bezos and Sanchez. The couple, who have been married for 25 years, disclosed their separation just before The Enquirer published an article exposing that Mr Bezos was having an affair with Ms Sanchez, a former television host who is also married.

Ted Boutrous, a veteran lawyer who briefly represented McDougal in a dispute with the Enquirer, said the emails Bezos described in his post are "a textbook example of blackmail and extortion".

[.] Because of both [their] friendship and the money that Pecker saw could be made from promoting the Republican presidential candidate, Pecker used the "National Enquirer" as a forum for promoting Trump's campaign. The Enquirer secured the rights to the material, assuring the allegations wouldn't be shared with other media, then never published the story.

The AMI lawyers said Pecker was extremely angry when he heard of the investigation.

A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker's apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer.

"They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn't stop our investigation", Bezos wrote in the post.

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"I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering", Howard wrote, going on to say that the Enquirer had a "below the belt selfie" of Bezos, among other shots.

According to the letters, in exchange for not publishing these photos, AMI's Deputy General Counsel, Jon Fine, wanted Bezos and his team to acknowledge that "they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI's coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility".

Bezos says that the Enquirer is threatening to publish even more embarrassing photos of him if he doesn't put a stop to an investigation now underway by a private investigator hired by Bezos.

A spokesperson and an attorney for AMI did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

In its January 9 story, the Enquirer reported that Mr. Bezos sent "sleazy text messages and gushing love notes" to Ms. Sanchez, months before Mr. Bezos announced he was splitting up with his wife, MacKenzie. That prompted Bezos to hire a private investigator, security specialist Gavin de Becker, to determine how the Enquirer obtained the texts. His private investigators have concluded that Mr. Bezos's phone wasn't hacked. The person wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

-With a file from Reuters and the Associated Press. "In a tweet, he said Becker "spreads fake, unhinged conservative conspiracy theories" and "'dog whistle' smears". The National Enquirer admitted a year ago, according to the Southern District of NY police, to facilitating a USD$150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to retain exclusive rights to her story - some say to ensure the details weren't released until after the campaign.

The Justice Department agreed to a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, which requires the company and some top executives, including CEO David Pecker, to co-operate with authorities.

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