He’s gotcha by the Pecker! Tabloid’s ‘blackmail’ of Bezos backfires
National Enquirer publisher on the ropes after world's riches man exposes its bid to silence him
One of America’s most influential tabloid publishers is bracing itself for a slew of potentially devastating accusations, after an attempt to silence the world’s richest man appeared to have spectacularly backfired.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, shocked the US on Thursday with his account of how American Media Inc (AMI), publishers of the National Enquirer, tried to block his investigation into their business network through “extortion and blackmail”.
He told how the company threatened to publish explicit photographs unless he stopped probing how the magazine, and its network of connections leading all the way to the White House, obtained text messages between him and his mistress Lauren Sanchez.
In the hours that have followed, journalists and celebrities have come forward to accuse AMI of similar “blackmail” propositions.
“I and at least one other prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump fielded similar ‘stop digging or we’ll ruin you’ blackmail efforts from AMI,” wrote Ronan Farrow on Twitter. Farrow is working on a book, Catch and Kill, detailing AMI’s attempts to silence people.
Ted Bridis, the former editor of the Associated Press investigations team, replied: “We were warned explicitly by insiders that AMI had hired private investigators to dig into the backgrounds of AP journalists looking into the tabloid’s efforts on behalf of Trump. Never saw evidence of this either way, and it didn’t stop our reporting.”
Lachlan Cartwright, a reporter with The Daily Beast, said he was threatened with a $5m lawsuit unless he stopped reporting on Bezos’s attempt to find the source of the National Enquirer’s scoop. And Terry Crews, an actor in US sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, said that AMI had attempted to blackmail him too. “This same company, AMI, tried to silence me in my lawsuit ... by fabricating stories of me with prostitutes, and even went so far as creating fake receipts,” he wrote on Twitter. “I called their bluff by releasing their threats online. They blinked.”
Pecker in a twist
The accusations have lifted the lid on AMI’s tactics, and are raising expectations that yet more revelations about the company could be forthcoming.
In his extraordinary blog post on Thursday night, Bezos argued that his ownership of The Washington Post made him a target for AMI’s chairperson, David Pecker. Pecker is a friend of President Donald Trump, and The Washington Post is relentless in its coverage of the presidency. Furthermore, Pecker has business interests in Saudi Arabia, and The Washington Post has been demanding answers over the country’s involvement in the murder of their columnist, Jamal Khashoggi.
Bezos explained that he was fighting back because he was one of the few people able to do so. “Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here,” he wrote. “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”
AMI has denied doing anything illegal and said it had been “in good-faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him [Mr Bezos]” when the allegations were made, and that its board had “determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims”.
– © The Sunday Telegraph