Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos has accused The National Enquirer of blackmail and extortion in a detailed post published last night on Medium.com.
Specifically, Bezos alleges that AMI, which owns The National Enquirer and is led by David Pecker, has threatened to publish “intimate photos” of he and girlfriend Lauren Sanchez if he does not call off his probe of the tabloid.
Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post, which has published several damaging pieces about Pecker’s role in the Trump-related “Catch and Kill” scheme and also about “various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government.”
On January 21st, The National Enquirer published “lurid” text messages between Bezos and Sanchez which prompted Bezos to hire investigators to determine how these messages were obtained.
Washington Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia informed MSNBC last night he had been told by one of Bezos’ investigators that “government entities” had obtained the information. He said that while reporters at the paper have not spoken to Bezos about the coverage, they have spoken “extensively” with his lead investigator, Gavin de Becker. Roig-Franzia said:
They have begun to believe, the Bezos camp, that this publication by the National Enquirer might have been politically motivated.
Gavin de Becker told us that he does not believe that Jeff Bezos’ phone was hacked, he thinks it’s possible that a government entity might have gotten hold of his text messages.
Although Roig-Franzias remarks are unproven, they are alarming.
Below is a copy of the letter from AMI’s Chief Content Officer, Dylan Howard, to Martin Singer, the litigation counsel for the aforementioned Gavin de Becker in which the relevant photos are described.
From: Howard, Dylan [[email protected]] (Chief Content Officer, AMI)
Sent: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 3:33 PM
To: Martin Singer (litigation counsel for Mr. de Becker)
Subject:. Jeff Bezos & Ms. Lauren Sanchez Photos
CONFIDENTIAL & NOT FOR DISTRIBIUTION
I am leaving the office for the night. I will be available on my cell — 917 XXX-XXXX.
However, in the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering.
In addition to the “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’” — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images. These include:
· Mr. Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.
· Ms. Sanchez response — a photograph of her smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene.
· A shirtless Mr. Bezos holding his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring. He’s wearing either tight black cargo pants or shorts — and his semi-erect manhood is penetrating the zipper of said garment.
· A full-length body selfie of Mr. Bezos wearing just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks, with his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring.
· A selfie of Mr. Bezos fully clothed.
· A full-length scantily-clad body shot with short trunks.
· A naked selfie in a bathroom — while wearing his wedding ring. Mr. Bezos is wearing nothing but a white towel — and the top of his pubic region can be seen.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.
· Ms. Sanchez wearing a two-piece red bikini with gold detail dress revealing her cleavage.
It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.
It’s probably not a good idea to blackmail the world’s richest man, and an even worse idea to put everything into writing. Although the photographs would no doubt prove embarrassing to Bezos and Sanchez, it would seem that the damage had largely already been done by the prior release of their text messages.
So, Bezos took the bull by the horns and fired back. In his post, he wrote:
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?
Nothing I might write here could tell the National Enquirer story as eloquently as their own words below.
Immediately below is a copy of the communication from Jon Fine, AMI’s Deputy General Counsel to Martin Singer, Gavin de Becker’s attorney. It is followed by a copy of an email from Fine to Singer.
From: Fine, Jon [[email protected]] (Deputy General Counsel, AMI)
Sent: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 5:57 PM
To: Martin Singer (Mr de Becker’s attorney)
Subject: Re: EXTERNAL* RE: Bezos et al / American Media et al
Here are our proposed terms:
1. A full and complete mutual release of all claims that American Media, on the one hand, and Jeff Bezos and Gavin de Becker (the “Bezos Parties”), on the other, may have against each other.
2. A public, mutually-agreed upon acknowledgment from the Bezos Parties, released through a mutually-agreeable news outlet, affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility.
3. AM agrees not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos (the “Unpublished Materials”).
4. AM affirms that it undertook no electronic eavesdropping in connection with its reporting and has no knowledge of such conduct.
5. The agreement is completely confidential.
6. In the case of a breach of the agreement by one or more of the Bezos Parties, AM is released from its obligations under the agreement, and may publish the Unpublished Materials.
7. Any other disputes arising out of this agreement shall first be submitted to JAMS mediation in California
Deputy General Counsel, Media
American Media, LLC
Re: Jeff Bezos / American Media, LLC, et al.
Dear Mr. Singer:
I write in response to your February 4, 2019, letter to Dylan Howard, and to address serious concerns we have regarding the continuing defamatory activities of your client and his representatives regarding American Media’s motivations in its recent reporting about your client.
As a primary matter, please be advised that our newsgathering and reporting on matters involving your client, including any use of your client’s “private photographs,” has been, and will continue to be, consistent with applicable laws. As you know, “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies . . . for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting . . . is not an infringement of copyright.” 17 USC Sec. 107. With millions of Americans having a vested interest in the success of Amazon, of which your client remains founder, chairman, CEO, and president, an exploration of Mr. Bezos’ judgment as reflected by his texts and photos is indeed newsworthy and in the public interest.
Beyond the copyright issues you raise, we also find it necessary to address various unsubstantiated defamatory statements and scurrilous rumors attributed to your client’s representatives in the press suggesting that “strong leads point to political motives”1 in the publication of The National Enquirer story. Indeed, you yourself declared the “politically motivated underpinnings” of our reporting to be “self-evident” in your correspondence on Mr. de Becker’s behalf to Mr. Howard dated January 31, 2019.
Once again, as I advised you in my February 1 response to your January 31 correspondence, American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise. Simply put, this was and is a news story.
Yet, it is our understanding that your client’s representatives, including the Washington Post, continue to pursue and to disseminate these false and spurious allegations in a manner that is injurious to American Media and its executives.
Accordingly, we hereby demand that you cease and desist such defamatory conduct immediately. Any further dissemination of these false, vicious, speculative and unsubstantiated statements is done at your client’s peril. Absent the immediate cessation of the defamatory conduct, we will have no choice but to pursue all remedies available under applicable law.
As I advised previously, we stand by the legality of our newsgathering and reporting on this matter of public interest and concern. Moreover, American Media is undeterred from continuing its reporting on a story that is unambiguously in the public interest — a position Mr. Bezos clearly appreciates as reflected in Boies Schiller January 9 letter to American Media stating that your client “does not intend to discourage reporting about him” and “supports journalistic efforts.”
That said, if your client agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior, we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession. Dylan Howard stands ready to discuss the matter at your convenience.
All other rights, claims, counterclaims and defenses are specifically reserved and not waived.
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