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Amazon CEO accuses tabloid of ‘blackmail’ over intimate photos

WASHINGTON: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has accused the publisher of the tabloid National Enquirer, who has been described as a close friend of President Donald Trump, of trying to blackmail him over lurid photos.

Bezos, the world’s richest person, owns The Washington Post, a frequent target of Trump as he assails the US media as “enemy of the people” and a source of fake news.

Last month Trump took aim at Bezos — referring to him as ‘Bozo’ — in what appeared to be an allusion to National Enquirer reporting of the billionaire’s relationship with former news anchor and entertainment reporter Lauren Sanchez.

“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,” he tweeted. “Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!”

The National Enquirer accessed private text messages and last month reported that Bezos had an extramarital affair with Sanchez — a leak that led to his divorce. On Thursday, Bezos said the tabloid’s parent company had threatened to publish intimate photographs he sent to his mistress.

In a post on the online platform Medium, Bezos said Enquirer publisher American Media Inc (AMI), led by David Pecker, a friend of Trump, had threatened to publish the photos if he did not halt an investigation into the motives behind the leak.

In his Medium post, Bezos pointed to AMI and Pecker’s previous cooperation with Trump — including payments made to suppress negative stories, currently under investigation by federal prosecutors. One involves a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump.

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The hush-money payment, and a similar one to another woman, was made on the eve of Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.

Bezos, in his post, also raised what he called AMI’s links to Saudi Arabia. “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,” Bezos wrote in the blog post.

“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.” He added: “Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten,” Bezos wrote.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2019
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