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