The National Enquirer's publisher paid the brother of Jeff Bezos' mistress $200,000 for racy texts that the Amazon founder sent to her, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos' lover Lauren Sanchez, allegedly sold those private messages to American Media Inc. for the hefty sum, people familiar with the matter told the publication. Bezos and his allies had earlier speculated that the White House or Saudi Arabia might have been involved in the publication's expose.
The Daily Beast, citing multiple sources inside AMI, first reported last month that Michael Sanchez supplied the texts to the supermarket tabloid. NBC News has not independently confirmed the Journal's or The Daily Beast's reporting.
AMI, Amazon, Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez have not responded to NBC News' requests for comment.
Michael Sanchez told NBC News in a statement, "With an avalanche of real news, including terrorist attacks, and zero evidence to support Jeff Bezos' vast right wing conspiracy theory involving President Trump and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, WSJ's report on old rumors from 'anonymous' sources is disappointing.
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"I didn't dignify the rumors last month and I'm not going to dignify them now," he continued, "but two key facts remain the same: 1) Everything I've done since the day I met Bezos protected his extramarital affair from Gavin de Becker, and 2) I never had access to the penis selfies which are the heart of criminal allegations against Dylan Howard, a desperate man I sincerely believe attempted to brazenly blackmail Jeff Bezos."
De Becker is a security consultant whom Bezos hired to investigate how the Enquirer obtained his text messages.
Sanchez told the Journal that he did not want to “dignify” its reporting on the contract he struck; he described the reporting on the contract as "old rumors" from anonymous sources. He also denied sending “the many penis selfies” but declined to comment to the newspaper on whether he provided photos of Bezos to the tabloid.
A spokesman for Bezos declined to comment to the Journal. Lauren Sanchez didn’t respond to the newspaper's requests for comment sent through an employee at her company and an Amazon spokesman.
The Enquirer published an 11-page story on the affair between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, a former news anchor and entertainment reporter, in January. Bezos announced that he and his wife MacKenzie were splitting up after 25 years after the outlet approached him for comment days earlier.
Michael Sanchez had long been a source for the Enquirer and its top editor, Dylan Howard, people familiar with the matter told the Journal. He has also supported President Donald Trump on Twitter and has ties to several conservative activists, like longtime Trump associate Roger Stone.
Trump has railed against Bezos over The Washington Post's coverage of his administration as well as against Amazon. Trump has also had a close relationship with Pecker and AMI that goes back decades.
Federal prosecutors in New York have alleged Pecker told Trump in August of 2015 that he would use his publications to assist the Trump campaign, the Journal noted. AMI has admitted to making a hush payment of $150,000 on Trump's behalf weeks before the 2016 presidential election to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims to have had an affair with the president. Trump has denied the affair.
AMI reached a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York describing its role in the payment and agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.
Trump has said he had no knowledge of the Enquirer's investigation into Bezos.
The president tweeted in January: "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.”