Amazon CEO says Enquirer threatened to publish revealing pictures

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos. (AFP file photo)
Updated 08 February 2019
0

Amazon CEO says Enquirer threatened to publish revealing pictures

LOS ANGELES: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said Thursday he was the target of “extortion and blackmail” by the publisher of the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish revealing personal photos of him unless he stopped investigating its acquisition of other private images and messages and unless he declared its coverage wasn’t politically motivated.
Bezos, who is also owner of The Washington Post, detailed his interactions with American Media Inc. in an extraordinary blog post Thursday on the Medium.com website.
After the tabloid published a story about his extramarital affair last month, Bezos ordered a team of private investigators to get to the bottom of how the Enquirer obtained risque texts between the executive and former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez. Since then, there’s been a public relations battle.
Bezos’ investigators have suggested the Enquirer’s coverage of his affair was politically motivated. Bezos has been the target of criticism from President Donald Trump over the Post’s critical coverage of the White House, and AMI has admitted that it engaged in what’s known as “catch-and-kill” practices to help Trump become president.
That admission was part of a deal between AMI and federal prosecutors, who agreed to not pursue charges against the company for secretly assisting Trump’s campaign by paying $150,000 to a Playboy model for the rights to her story about an alleged affair with the then-candidate. The company then intentionally suppressed the story until after the 2016 election.
Several days ago, someone at AMI told Bezos’ team that the company’s CEO David Pecker was “apoplectic” about Bezos’ investigation, Bezos said. AMI later approached Bezos’ representatives with an offer.
“They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation,” Bezos wrote in the post.
Bezos wrote that this week, the tabloid’s editor, Dylan Howard, emailed an attorney for Bezos’ longtime security consultant to describe photos the Enquirer “obtained during our newsgathering.” The photos include a “below the belt selfie” of Bezos, photos of him in tight boxer-briefs and wearing only a towel, and several revealing photos of Sanchez, according to the email Bezos released in his blog post.
According to the emails, an attorney for AMI offered a formal deal Wednesday: The tabloid wouldn’t post the photos if Bezos and his investigators would release a public statement “affirming that they have no knowledge or basis” to suggest the Enquirer’s coverage was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
Bezos said he decided to publish the emails sent to his team “rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail,” despite the “personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.”
AMI didn’t demand any money from Bezos, the world’s richest person — only that he call off his investigation and issue a statement saying the coverage wasn’t political.
A spokesman and an attorney for AMI did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
In its Jan. 9 story, the Enquirer reported that Bezos sent “sleazy text messages and gushing love notes” to Sanchez, months before Bezos announced he was splitting up with his wife, MacKenzie. Reporters for the Enquirer followed Bezos and Sanchez “across five states and 40,000 miles” and “tailed them in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, five-star hotel hideaways, intimate dinner dates and ‘quality time’ in hidden love nests,” the tabloid said in its story. The story carries the bylines of Howard and two reporters.
After the story ran, Bezos ordered his longtime security consultant, Gavin de Becker, to lead the probe into how the Enquirer obtained the lewd text messages. His private investigators have concluded that Bezos’ phone wasn’t hacked. Instead, they’ve been focusing on Sanchez’s brother, according to a person familiar with the matter.
De Becker and his team suspect Michael Sanchez, a talent manager who touts his support of Trump and is an acquaintance of Trump allies Roger Stone and Carter Page, may have provided the information to the Enquirer, the person said. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Sanchez, who is also his sister’s manager, has declined to speak with The Associated Press on the record and did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday. In a tweet, he said de Becker “spreads fake, unhinged conservative conspiracy theories” and “’dog whistle’ smears.”
AMI was a focus of the federal investigation into campaign finance violations by Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen. Cohen pleaded guilty to several federal crimes and admitted that he had made a deal, on Trump’s behalf, in which the Enquirer helped Trump’s presidential bid by paying $150,000 to former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal to buy and bury her story.
In September, the Justice Department agreed to a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, which requires the company and some top executives, including CEO David Pecker and Howard, to cooperate with authorities.
De Becker is now trying to find a way that federal prosecutors in Manhattan — where the non-prosecution agreement was signed — could investigate the text message scandal, the person familiar with the matter said, though it wasn’t immediately clear what, if any, crime the prosecutors would be asked to look into.


Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

Updated 16 February 2019
0

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

  • New office will be hub for Asian operation of paper and builds on relationship with community and its digital generation
  • Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has officially inaugurated Arab News Pakistan bureau in the country’s capital.

Chaudhry was the chief guest at the occasion and several prominent Pakistani media personalities and Arab News staff also attended the launch ceremony.

Standing side by side with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, who is in Pakistan as part of the media delegation accompanying the royal visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Arab News Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani, Chaudhry cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the office.

“I am very happy for two reasons: The perception was building that the newspapers were not coming (to Pakistan), so once an international publication like Arab News (has come here) it certainly gives us a huge boost.”

Chaudhry described how the relationship between the nations was becoming stronger, particularly with the growth of Pakistan’s voice in the Middle East.

‘Secondly, I think this is an era where Pakistan is playing a very important role in the Middle East and to have such a major Middle Eastern publication coming to Pakistan itself shows the kind of importance Pakistan has of the Middle East and vice versa, we are very happy to have you here.’

Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas thanked the Pakistani information minister for his presence at the inauguration and for the efforts of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to help facilitate the newspaper’s operations in Islamabad. 

“The inauguration of our Islamabad bureau a year after the launch of our local digital edition is an indicator of our commitment to Pakistan and our determination to help create a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and the region,” said Abbas. 

“Ever since its establishment in 1975, Arab News has had a special relationship with the massive and incredibly loyal Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia. Today we inaugurate this bureau in Islamabad to ensure a continued connection with the community and establish a relationship with a new more digital and highly connected generation,” he added. 

Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani said that the new office would be a hub not only for the Arab News Pakistan edition but also for the entire Asian operation of the paper. “We currently have reporters across Pakistan as well as nine other Asian countries and with the help, hard work and dedication of our team at the Islamabad bureau we hope not only to better manage our operation but to grow further in Asia as well.” 

Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans. The project is the first of many new international editions planned by the Riyadh-based newspaper. 

Arab News is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG).