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?