Bezos accuses the National Enquirer of extortion

This story is complicated, so Living Media Ethics breaks it down to fathom why the world’s richest man–Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post–claims he is being blackmailed by the National Enquirer. As far as journalism is concerned, there’s one small positive outcome in this sad, sordid affair.

Above video by CBS Evening News posted on YouTube

In early January, Bezos was informed that the National Enquirer would be publishing a story replete with intimate text messages about an extramarital affair he was having with television anchor Lauren Sanchez.

Two days later, Bezos announced that he and his spouse of 25 years, MacKenzie, would be divorcing.

Bezos hired security expert Gavin de Becker to discover how the Enquirer obtained those text messages.

The Post then ran a story titled “Was tabloid exposé of Bezos affair just juicy gossip or a political hit job?” quoting de Becker who suggested that the Enquirer story was a “’politically motivated’ leak meant to embarrass the owner of The Post — an effort potentially involving several important figures in Trump’s 2016 campaign.”

David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., parent company of the Enquirer,  is a friend of President Trump.  According to The Washington Post, Pecker has repeatedly attacked the newspaper as fake news and reportedly directed the Enquirer “to write favorable stories about Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, while paying $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to suppress her claim of a long-running affair with Trump.”

Here’s where the story implodes.

In a long and at times embarrassing post, Bezos details how the tabloid purports to have salacious photos of him and Ms. Sanchez. He alleges that a top editor at the Enquirer threatened to publish those photos unless Bezos directed The Post to write a story stating that he and de Becker, “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”

Rather than agree to that, Bezos wrote: “The Post is a critical institution with a critical mission. My stewardship of The Post and my support of its mission, which will remain unswerving, is something I will be most proud of when I’m 90 and reviewing my life, if I’m lucky enough to live that long, regardless of any complexities it creates for me.”

Bezos added:

“Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here.”

And that’s the hook. Is The Post investigation honing on a politically motivated “hit job” and, if so, by whom?

The answer to that, at the moment, is nobody knows until somebody does, and when that happens, news will go viral.

Here is what we do know. Bezos did not use The Post as a mouthpiece to save himself devastatingly bad publicity sure to upset stockholders of Amazon and his other holdings. And that, as far as Living Media Ethics can see at the moment, is about the only good that has come out of this sordid journalism episode.

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