Jeff Bezos versus the National Enquirer

David Pecker, the publisher of the gossip tabloid the National Enquirer, is a friend of Donald Trump. The tabloid is notorious for its aggressive investigations into the lives of public figures and weaponizing that information, publishing it if it does not like them and withholding it in return for favors. Basically it practices a form of blackmail, using its journalistic cover to defend itself from accusations of sleaziness.

They obtained embarrassing photographs and text messages of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, someone whom Donald Trump hates. When Bezos hired an investigator to find out how they did it and also look into their other shady practices, the parent company AMI tried to blackmail Bezos, saying that if he stopped the investigation and released a public statement that they had done nothing wrong, they would not release the information they had on his affair with a woman.

But Bezos decided to go public upon receiving the blackmail threats, giving as his reasoning the following:

Well, that got my attention. But not in the way they likely hoped. Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can? (On that point, numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake.)

In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”

If we do not agree to affirmatively publicize that specific lie, they say they’ll publish the photos, and quickly. And there’s an associated threat: They’ll keep the photos on hand and publish them in the future if we ever deviate from that lie.

I am not a fan of Amazon but I have to give Bezos credit for taking on a blackmailer. As he says, if someone with all his resources does not do it, who can?


  1. John Morales says

    Exactly. But, being (ahem) a billionaire, he can afford that stance

    (It must be quite nice to be a billionaire)

  2. Jazzlet says

    If the photos are of an affair it isn’t just the money we’re talking about is it? It is people getting hurt. I am certainly not suggesting he is wrong to take AMP on, but his riches are only part of the picture. I still think he’s a wanker.

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    Blackmail and extortion are against the law. I wonder if there is some technicality by which the Enquirer thinks these communications are not illegal.

  4. says

    There are few people who are perfectly good or perfectly evil. Bezos is a union-busting asshole who has people working in horrific conditions and uses the promise of jobs to extort tax breaks from governments while weakening labour protections and cheated on his wife, but yet is doing a good thing here and he is willing to let the Washington Post do its job (for the most part, I doubt they’d report too harshly on Amazon).

    (Mano, should that be “weaponizing” instead of “weaponing” in the second sentence above?)

  5. Jenora Feuer says

    The National Enquirer has been doing this sort of thing for a long time, likely emboldened by the fact that so few people want the bad publicity.

    Even after Burnett v. National Enquirer, Inc., it’s not as if the National Enquirer cared much what other people thought. There haven’t been a lot of successful cases against them, and even the Carol Burnett case got the damages appealed down to almost a tenth of what the original court finding said.

    But yeah, the fact that they actually insisted on Bezos making a public statement that this wasn’t politically motivated, despite all the evidence that the Enquirer is even more political than ever while Trump is in office… wow.

  6. Mano Singham says

    Reginald @#3,

    From what I have read around the subject, what the tabloid did may not technically rise to the level of extortion and blackmail but you can bet that Bezos, now that the fear of exposure has been taken away, is going to use this case to go after them with everything he has got (and he has got a lot!).

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    In recent news, Bezos is suggesting that the Enquirer may have gotten access to the photos through a government agency. He doesn’t have any actual evidence that this is the case.

  8. ridana says

    It seems pretty clear to me that they were desperate (and stupid) enough to have him assert they weren’t politically motivated to try to blackmail him into it in writing because if he can make that political connection stick, they’ve violated the terms of their plea bargain and will be going to jail. They couldn’t just sit back and hope his investigation went nowhere, but you’d think they’d do it by phone or something less concrete than a letter.

  9. Matthew Currie says

    I don’t have much love for Bezos who is after all a filthy rich plundering and philandering bastard, but I suppose he’d be that no matter how he behaved in this case, so we might as well be glad he’s found a worthy battle and wish him luck. I imagine it will be hard to find evidence for a government connection but given Trump’s open battle with him, he just might have enough motivation and enough money to do it. Let’s hope so.

  10. Myra says

    Bezos isn’t smart, obviously he has been played. Not sure if Dylan Howard was in charge of AMI at the time but he suggested his reporters sleep with people to get stories and has now been removed. So I think Michael Sanchez was given the dick pics by Lauren Sanchez, Bezos fling. Maybe he should of not fooled around with a Trumpsters sister. If Bezos was smart he wouldn’t be anti union and wouldn’t be milking cities for taxpayers money to build his headquarters. These kind of things are bad for people.

  11. lanir says

    This is the opposite end of not having heroes. It makes no sense to have villains either. People I don’t like will sometimes do good things because they aren’t one-dimensional moustache twirling villains tying helpless maidens to railroad tracks. It doesn’t excuse anything else they’ve done, it just makes them human.

    Using real people as caricatures of good or evil within our minds does not seem to help me or anyone else.

  12. lanir says

    Quick caveat to last statement: Sometimes doing good things does seem to excuse bad things people have done but I feel like it can only be done by starting with the bad stuff. Look at the harm first, the scope of it, degree of harm, etc. and understand it. Then look at any good deeds and see to what degree they can mitigate any of that. The slippery slope comes in when we start in the other direction looking at only good things. I feel like people generally tend to not look as hard at the full impact and dimensions of bad acts when they’ve begun at the other end.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *