‘Na­tional En­quirer’ claims threat to pub­lish Be­zos pho­tos was ‘jour­nal­ism’

Santa Fe New Mexican - - NATION & WORLD - By Amy B. Wang Washington Post

Jef­frey Be­zos, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ama­zon and the world’s rich­est man, has been a con­stant in head­lines over the past few weeks. Last month, the Na­tional En­quirer pub­lished texts and pho­tos ex­pos­ing Be­zos’ ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair with for­mer tele­vi­sion host Lau­ren Sanchez. The brazen leak of the in­ti­mate mes­sages prompted Be­zos to or­der an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether the su­per­mar­ket tabloid had been po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

On Thurs­day, Be­zos pub­lished a Medium post ac­cus­ing the Na­tional En­quirer’s par­ent com­pany, Amer­i­can Me­dia, Inc., of ex­tor­tion and black­mail. He in­cluded emails from AMI lawyers who de­manded Be­zos pub­licly state that the su­per­mar­ket tabloid’s cov­er­age did not rep­re­sent a po­lit­i­cal hit job. If he didn’t, they wrote, the Na­tional En­quirer would pub­lish ad­di­tional ex­plicit pho­tos, in­clud­ing selfies show­ing Be­zos’s pri­vate parts.

AMI now faces ques­tions about whether its ac­tions con­sti­tuted a crime. The com­pany stated that it would “thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gate” the claims made by Be­zos but con­tin­ued to in­sist it had done noth­ing legally wrong.

On Sun­day, Elkan Abramowitz, an at­tor­ney for AMI Chair­man David Pecker, ap­peared on This Week to dou­ble down on the com­pany’s as­ser­tion

“It ab­so­lutely is not ex­tor­tion and not black­mail,” Abramowitz told Ge­orge Stephanopou­los.

Abramowitz in­sisted that AMI was do­ing jour­nal­ism. He sug­gested it was Be­zos who had threat­ened the tabloid by in­sin­u­at­ing it was be­ing di­rected by the lead­ers of Saudi Ara­bia.

“That’s why lawyers sit down and lawyers ne­go­ti­ate to try to re­solve dif­fer­ences,” he said.

But Stephanopou­los chal­lenged him. “How is that jour­nal­ism, though?” he asked. “If you be­lieve the pho­tos are news­wor­thy, how is it jour­nal­ism to say we’re not go­ing to pub­lish this if you give us some­thing we want?”

Abramowitz said the story of Be­zos’ af­fair with Sanchez was al­ready “out there.”

“Is it jour­nal­ism to de­cide not to print a story three times?” Pecker’s lawyer said. “You can make jour­nal­is­tic de­ci­sions as to how many times you’re go­ing to write the same story. That’s not the job of the pros­e­cu­tors or any­body else to de­ter­mine.”

ABC chief le­gal an­a­lyst Dan Abrams dis­agreed, not­ing AMI was threat­en­ing to pub­lish pho­tos that had not al­ready been re­leased. Whether that con­sti­tuted le­gal black­mail or ex­tor­tion was less clear.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.