The web of players in the media saga of the Jeff Bezos affair, visually explained

Salacious text messages, political ties, friends, lovers and bosses diagrammed in the spat between Bezos and the National Enquirer.
Image: Bezos Network
From left, National Enquirer Publisher David Pecker, communications consultant Michael Sanchez, media personality Lauren Sanchez, President Donald Trump and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.Adrian Lam/NBC News; Getty Images

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By Ben Popken and Robin Muccari

In the story of how the National Enquirer acquired the messages and photos that married man and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos texted to his girlfriend, it's fascinating to look at all the connections among the parties involved.

To help make sense of this web of interwoven relationships, NBC News made an interactive graphic outlining the key players. What becomes apparent is that at most, any person or company in our chart below has only one or two degrees of separation from each other.

The graphic is known as a “chord diagram.” Eleven of the central figures in the drama are arranged in a circle and their relationships are shown by colored strands with descriptions below.

Hover or tap on a photo to explore the connections.

While all romantic affairs are a kind of conspiracy, that circle grows when the affair is shared with confidants, or falls into the hands of those who would leverage its secrecy.

But after the news of Bezos’ relationship with Lauren Sanchez played out in lurid detail in the pages of the National Enquirer — complete with headlines of a billion-dollar divorce, blurry photos of the couple and steamy text messages — the Washington Post’s owner took it to the next level.

A month after the initial publication in which the Enquirer said it had more photos it hadn’t published, Bezos fired back. In a sprawling Medium post he wove together threads that included accusations of extortion, the National Enquirer's financial incentives, allegiances to President Donald Trump, and the slaying of a Washington Post columnist allegedly by operatives from Saudi Arabia’s government, all to explain how Bezos’ personal life and private messages and photographs got in the hands of the gossip tabloid that admittedly pays its sources.

It's a breathtaking rendering of the tale, but it's no Occam's razor.

Since news of the affair and negotiations with the Enquirer broke, a flurry of allegations and counter-allegations among a cast of characters have muddied the waters. What was made clear: When you're the richest man in the world, every move you make is a "complexifier."

Read more about Bezos and the National Enquirer: The Bezos story is a significant boost for a magazine that has struggled in a digital age.

Jiachuan Wu contributed.