Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said Thursday that he was the target of an extortion attempt by the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish embarrassing photos of him if he didn't halt his investigation into how the tabloid obtained private texts and photos between him and his mistress.
Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the Enquirer made the blackmail threat after he began looking into how the tabloid acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor.
In a rare and revealing statement posted to the online publishing platform Medium, Bezos said the Enquirer wanted him to make a false public statement to the news media that Bezos and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, "have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI's coverage [of the affair] was politically motivated or influenced by political forces."
Bezos declined to do so.
Instead, Bezos published emails from Enquirer executives to a lawyer representing de Becker, including one in which top editor Dylan Howard appears to suggest that the Enquirer would publish revealing photos of Bezos and Sanchez.
"...In the interests of expediating [sic] 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," Howard wrote. He added, "It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail - and quickly."
Bezos went on to say that, "Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there's a much more important matter involved here," Bezos wrote. "If in my position I can't stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?"
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