Enquirer Publisher Goes on Defensive as Bezos Mulls Options (1)
The lawyer for the chairman of the National Enquirer’s parent company said there wasn’t any blackmail, extortion or political motivation involved in the fight between the tabloid and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
Photos and other details about Bezos’s extramarital affair came from “a reliable source” known to Bezos -- and not from President Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia or Trump adviser Roger Stone, said Elkan Abramowitz, an attorney for David Pecker, the chairman of American Media Inc. “It was a usual story that National Enquirer gets from reliable sources,” Abramowitz said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. He didn’t name the source. “It absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail.” It doesn’t look that way to everyone. “AMI is in a world of hurt,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities who has covered Amazon for years. In a public blog post Feb. 7, Bezos published letters from lawyers representing AMI who demanded he drop a private investigation into the company -- or else it would publish more embarrassing photographs about him. Bezos accused the National Enquirer publisher of extortion. His post referenced Pecker’s connections with the Saudis and suggested more would come to light. The Amazon founder, who owns the Washington Post, also appeared to be making references to his paper’s aggressive investigation of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for the paper, and the seeming reluctance of the Trump administration to hold Saudis responsible despite that assessment by the intelligence community. Abramowitz suggested the letters were an attempt to resolve differences because Bezos didn’t want another story about him and AMI “did not want to have the libel against them that this was inspired by the White House, inspired by Saudi Arabia or inspired by the Washington Post.” By emphasizing that the story about Bezos having an affair was already in the public domain, “Abramowitz was in essence admitting that they were trying to extort a statement from the owner of the Washington Post,” said Ted Boutrous, a partner at the Gibson Dunn law firm in Los Angeles. “That’s really a significant problem for the National Enquirer.” Bezos Blackmail Charge Intensifies Proxy War With Trump Pecker has gotten himself in -- and out -- of much trouble over the years. But fighting with Bezos may be a step too far. It’s doubtful Bezos is willing to let the matter drop. Rather than pay hush money he certainly could afford as the world’s richest person, he said he’d rather risk embarrassment of the publication of intimate messages or pictures -- including those “under the belt” -- than “capitulate to extortion or blackmail.” Bezos is probably mulling whether AMI will now be in deeper trouble with prosecutors -- or whether he will draw from his deep pockets to destroy them on his own. Or both.