Jeff Bezos accuses Donald Trump-ally AMI of extortion
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Jeff Bezos accuses Donald Trump-ally AMI of extortion

Jeff Bezos has accused American Media Inc (AMI), a media company with close and longstanding ties to President Donald Trump, of trying to blackmail him using intimate photos of him and text messages sent by him.

world Updated: Feb 08, 2019 23:47 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Jeff Bezos,Donald Trump,World news
Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and The Washington Post.(AFP file photo)

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man and owner of Amazon and The Washington Post, has accused American Media Inc (AMI), a media company with close and longstanding ties to President Donald Trump, of trying to blackmail him using intimate photos of him and text messages sent by him.

Bezos wrote in a blog on Thursday that AMI threatened to publish those texts and pictures if he did not stop an investigation he had ordered into the publication last month by AMI’s National Enquirer of intimate texts from him to Lauren Sanchez, a former news anchor with whom he was in an extramarital relationship at the time. Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos announced they were separating just ahead of the publication of the report.

The threats were conveyed verbally and through emails from top executives of AMI, Bezos wrote. And he made the emails public in the blog.

Apart from halting the investigation, AMI demanded, according to the emails, a statement from Bezos that he and his investigators “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces”.

That, in other words, National Enquirer’s earlier article had nothing to do with how President Trump, and those in his orbit, felt about Bezos, in the context of his ownership of The Washington Post.

Also read | Donald Trump wishes Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos luck in his divorce and predicts ‘a beauty’

AMI, the parent company of National Enquirer, Radar, OK and other tabloids, is owned by David Pecker, who is a long-time friend of President Trump and is cooperating currently with federal prosecutors in the payment of hush money to women to keep quit about their affairs with Trump in the run up to the 2016 elections. AMI ran what is called in media industry “catch-and-kill” operation, buy stories but never publish them, as it did with Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who had a 10-month affair with Trump in 2006.

Bezos pointed to the president’s ties to AMI in the Thursday blog. “My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy.

“President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”

Trump has been very upset with the coverage of his presidency by The Washington Post — as he has been with many other media outlets such as The New York Times and CNN — and has attacked it saying, among other things, it has become a vehicle to further Bezos’s business interests.

And here is what the president wrote on Twitter after National Enquirer published Bezos’s texts to Sanchez last month, calling the Amazon founder “Bozo”.

“So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!”

Also read | The Jeff Bezos divorce: $136 billion and Amazon in the middle

First Published: Feb 08, 2019 21:22 IST