National Enquirer's parent company to investigate Bezos extortion allegation, says it 'acted lawfully'

"Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him," American Media's statement read.
Image: David Pecker, Chairman and CEO of American Media, in New York, June 2017.
David J. Pecker, chairman and CEO of American Media, publisher of National Enquirer and others, at the company's headquarters in lower Manhattan in June 2017.Mark Peterson / Redux Pictures

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By Minyvonne Burke

The National Enquirer's parent company said Friday that it will investigate Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' claims that he was extorted and blackmailed after he launched a probe into how the tabloid obtained private text messages and photos of him and his girlfriend.

American Media Inc., which owns the Enquirer, said it "acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos," but would investigate his allegations.

"At the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him," the statement read. "Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims."

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American Media — whose board is comprised of four members, including CEO David Pecker — said it will take "appropriate action", if necessary, following the investigation.

Bezos has not yet responded to American Media, but lashed out at Pecker on Thursday in a post on the blogging website Medium.

In it, Bezos alleged that the company threatened to post intimate text messages, with accompanying photos, of him with his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, if he did not stop the Bezos-owned Washington Post from reporting about political motivations behind the Enquirer's initial reports that he was having an alleged affair.

"We were approached, verbally at first, 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, who announced his divorce Jan. 9, said.

"If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?" Bezos wrote.

The blog post also contained emails that Bezos said were from American Media's chief content officer Dylan Howard, and the company's deputy general counsel Jon Fine.

A Feb. 5 email believed to be from Howard and sent to Martin Singer, a lawyer for an investigator Bezos hired, details 10 photos AMI claimed to have of the Amazon founder and Sanchez. An email supposedly sent by Fine detailed "proposed terms" for a deal to keep the photos from going public.

“Of course, I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks and corruption,” Bezos wrote. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”

The tabloid and Pecker have come under increased scrutiny in recent years for their close ties to President Donald Trump, as well as broader allegations that they acted on the president's behalf against his perceived enemies.