IT could be an outlandish plot from one of the tens of thousands of thrillers for sale on Amazon.
The world’s richest man says he is being blackmailed by a media magnate called Mr Pecker who is threatening to publish pictures of his “below the belt selfie”. But this is no fiction.
Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, 55, has published extraordinary emails sent from the downmarket National Enquirer — owned by David Pecker — which say it has a “d*** pic” of the billionaire.
The supermarket magazine threatened to run the image and another of his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez’s “nether region” unless Bezos stopped insisting the tabloid’s reporting of their affair was politically motivated.
Pecker is a key ally of Donald Trump, who has blasted Bezos’s left-leaning newspaper ties in the past.
One of the emails leaked by Bezos revealed the Enquirer says it has a slew of intimate pictures of the online shopping king.
They include: “A shirtless Mr Bezos holding his phone in his left hand — while wearing his wedding ring. He’s wearing either tight black cargo pants or shorts and is semi-erect.
“A naked selfie in a bathroom — while wearing his wedding ring. Mr Bezos is wearing nothing but a white towel — and the top of his pubic region can be seen.
“Ms Sanchez wearing a plunging red dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.”
Bezos, who is reportedly worth more than £100billion, hit the roof and has taken the extraordinary spat public by releasing emails from the Enquirer in a blog.
He thundered: “Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.”
Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.
Yesterday’s New York Post trumpeted the blackmail claims with the hilarious front page headline: Bezos Exposes Pecker. Little wonder America is gripped by a tawdry scandal encompassing sex, power and White House politics.
The furore erupted last month, shortly after dad-of-four Bezos and his wife of 25 years, writer Mackenzie, 48, revealed on Twitter they were divorcing but would “continue our shared lives as friends.”
The Enquirer then published details of Bezos’s extra-marital affair with glamorous former news anchor Sanchez, 49.
It said Bezos had cheated on his wife after “whisking his mistress off to exotic destinations on his $65million jet” and “sending her raunchy messages and erotic selfies”. It boasted that it had tracked the couple “across five States and 40,000 miles’’ and printed pictures of them arriving at “their beachfront love nest in Santa Monica”.
The Enquirer also published texts purporting to be from Bezos to Sanchez saying: “I want to smell you” and “I want to breathe you in”. Another said: “I love you, alive girl. I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon.”
It also claimed Bezos had sent Sanchez erotic selfies which were “too explicit” to print in its pages.
I wish him luck. It’s going to be a beauty
Meanwhile Trump — who has called Bezos “Bozo” and been scathing about his companies, including Amazon and the liberal Washington Post — could barely disguise his glee at the news of Bezos’s divorce, one of the most expensive in history.
Trump said: “I wish him luck. It’s going to be a beauty.”
The world’s most powerful man is locked in a feud with the world’s richest tycoon. Trump, who has derided Bezos’s campaigning paper as “The Fake News Washington Post”, happens to be a long-term ally of the Enquirer.
Last March, American Media Inc (AMI) which owns the Enquirer, told prosecutors it had worked “in concert” with Trump’s presidential campaign when it bought Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story of an affair with Trump for $150,000 (£116,000).
It suppressed the story in a “catch and kill” deal to stop it “influencing the election”. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen had previously pleaded guilty to involvement in the scheme.
The publisher agreed to reveal details of the McDougal deal in return for escaping possible charges for breaches of campaign finance law.
AMI’s boss is David Pecker, 61, a long-time close friend of Trump. He was reportedly granted immunity by US authorities in return for testifying about what he knew about Trump, Cohen and the payments. This immunity deal could be in jeopardy if he is found guilty of blackmail.
Bezos responded to the Enquirer’s hit job by unleashing feared investigator Gavin de Becker to discover the source of the leaked pictures and texts “with whatever budget he needed”.
De Becker, 64, who runs a private luxury terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, has advised the US government, law enforcement and thousands of celebs on security, including Elizabeth Taylor, President Ronald Reagan, Olivia Newton-John and Cher.
Sources say de Becker believes Sanchez’s brother and publicist was behind the leaked lovers’ messages. Michael Sanchez, a Trump-supporting Hollywood agent, responded in a tweet that de Becker “spreads fake, unhinged conservative conspiracy theories” and “dog whistle smears”.
Bezos, who usually shuns discussing his personal life, then prised open his private affairs to public glare.
In a blog, he claimed Pecker was “apoplectic” about the investigation into AMI including its links to Saudi Arabia. He wrote: “A few days after hearing about Mr Pecker’s apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer. They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation.”
Bezos went on to say he would not “capitulate to extortion and blackmail”. On Thursday he released several emails he said were from AMI.
Link to White House
JEFF BEZOS’S claims of “d*** pic” blackmail will reverberate all the way to the Oval Office.
The Amazon CEO’s tormentor-in-chief is David Pecker, a confidant of President Donald Trump and owner of the National Enquirer – which is said to possess the lewd snaps.
It emerged last year that the Enquirer had worked alongside Trump’s 2016 election campaign to buy-up a model touting her story of an alleged affair with the then presidential candidate, which also drew Pecker into an investigation into Russian meddling during the same election.
The Enquirer paid Playboy model Karen McDougal around £116,000 in a “catch and kill” deal “to prevent it from influencing the election”.
They also suppressed the story of porn star Stormy Daniels after payments by Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.
Cohen says he organised the hush money at the direction of Trump and admits violating campaign finance laws. He pleaded guilty to the charges in December.
Last September, AMI, the Enquirer’s publisher, promised not to break any laws for three years in exchange for avoiding prosecution over these campaign finance violations. Last night it emerged that prosecutors were probing whether the Enquirer had violated this co-operation agreement.
Bezos – dubbed “Bozo” by Trump – owns the campaigning Washington Post, which he admits has made enemies of “certain powerful people”, including the President.
One, from Dylan Howard, AMI’s Chief Content Officer, said that as well as the “d*** pic” it had a number of other revealing pictures of Bezos and Sanchez.
Howard added: “It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.” In 2017 Howard, whose self- proclaimed nickname is “Dildo”, was accused by 12 former AMI employees of describing his sexual conquests in the newsroom, discussing female employees’ sex lives and making women in the office watch porn.
There was also a claim that he threw a sexual aid at an employee. The allegations — said to have taken place when Howard ran the company’s Los Angeles office — led to an internal inquiry in 2012.
Howard quit soon after a report was completed, but AMI rehired him a year later. It’s unclear whether Howard, who said the claims were “baseless” was disciplined over the accusations.
According to Bezos, the Howard email had arrived just hours ahead of a Washington Post article that alleged there were possible political motivations behind the Enquirer’s exposé.
Bezos continued his blog with another email, said to be from AMI’s deputy general counsel Jon Fine.
It said AMI would not publish or share the snaps if Bezos called off de Becker, and stated that its coverage hadn’t been “politically motivated or influenced by political forces”. That was before Bezos published and damned his tormentors.
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He wrote in his blog: “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”
Yesterday Pecker’s people responded to the blackmail allegations. A statement from AMI insisted it had “acted lawfully” in the reporting of the story of Mr Bezos and was in “good faith negotiations” with him. But it vowed to “promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims . . . and take whatever action is necessary”.
It appears Bezos’s exposure of Pecker has prevented an exposure of his own.