The National Enquirer's parent company said it would launch a probe into the "blackmail attempts" Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused it of in a scathing blog post. Bezos, who is being both praised and panned for the post, wrote the supermarket tabloid threatened to publish “intimate photos” of him, including a “below the belt selfie," if he did not end an investigation into the company and its alleged political ties.
In a statement received by Fox News, American Media said it would start an investigation at the board level to determine what, if any, actions needed to be taken, but that it believes it acted "lawfully."
“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos," the publisher said in the statement. "Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him. Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.”
A great number of people took to social media to express their admiration Bezos's blog post, with some saying he has earned goodwill for exposing the National Enquirer's alleged tactics.
However, some expressed their dismay and criticized the world's richest man heavily for his actions, especially as it relates to his relationship with his wife MacKenzie, who he is divorcing.
In the scathing post on Medium, Bezos, who is worth some $150 billion, said that the National Enquirer, owned by American Media (led by David Pecker), threatened to expose him as well as potentially compromising photos of his reported girlfriend, former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez, if he did not end an investigation into the company and its alleged political ties.
He also said that he would not give in to "extortion and blackmail," noting it would be foolish to say politics were not a part of this. "Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption," Bezos wrote in the post. "I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out."
“In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal,” Bezos wrote. “They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we ‘have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.’
“If we do not agree to affirmatively publicize that specific lie, they say they’ll publish the photos, and quickly,” he continued. “And there’s an associated threat: They’ll keep the photos on hand and publish them in the future if we ever deviate from that lie.”
“Be assured,” Bezos continued, “no real journalists ever propose anything like what is happening here: I will not report embarrassing information about you if you do X for me. And if you don’t do X quickly, I will report the embarrassing information.”
A security consultant for Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, believes the CEO’s intimate text messages may have been acquired by a "government entity," a reporter at the paper said Thursday.
Manuel Roig-Franzia, the reporter, told MSNBC that while reporters at the paper have not spoken to Bezos about the coverage, they have spoken "extensively" with his lead investigator, Gavin de Becker.
“They have begun to believe, the Bezos camp, that this publication by the National Enquirer might have been politically motivated,” said Roig-Franzia.
“Gavin de Becker told us that he does not believe that Jeff Bezos’ phone was hacked, he thinks it’s possible that a government entity might have gotten hold of his text messages,” he added.
The National Enquirer put out a story last month that included lurid texts between Bezos and Sanchez. Since then, private investigators for the billionaire have been looking into how the Enquirer got the texts. That set off, according to Bezos, a threat to back off or risk having the personal photos exposed.
Fox News' Matt Richardson, Stephen Sorace and James Rogers contributed to this report.