Jeff Bezos accusing National Enquirer/AMI of blackmail and extortion

Jeff Bezos, founder and major shareholder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, has accused ‘the top people’ at the National Enquirer/AMI of blackmail and extortion in trying to stop further investigations by the Washington, and to get Bezos to issue a statement saying they have no knowledge of AMI coverage being politically motivated or ‘influenced by political forces’.

AMI owner David Pecker has been a strong supporter of Donald Trump. In December AMI was entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice over to their role in the so-called “Catch and Kill” process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign. If they have acted illegally with the alleged threats that could affect that immunity deal.

Yesterday Bezos posted No thank you, Mr. Pecker

Something unusual happened to me yesterday. Actually, for me it wasn’t just unusual — it was a first. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought. I’m glad they thought that, because it emboldened them to put it all in writing. 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.

…I didn’t know much about most of that a few weeks ago when intimate texts messages from me were published in the National Enquirer. I engaged investigators to learn how those texts were obtained, and to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer. As it turns out, there are now several independent investigations looking into this matter.

To lead my investigation, I retained Gavin de Becker

Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is “apoplectic” about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.

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.

My lawyers argued that AMI has no right to publish photos since any person holds the copyright to their own photos, and since the photos in themselves don’t add anything newsworthy.

AMI’s claim of newsworthiness is that the photos are necessary to show Amazon shareholders that my business judgment is terrible.

Email sent Howard, Dylan (Chief Content Officer, AMI) to Martin Singer (litigation counsel for Mr. de Becker) includes:

However, in the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering.

In addition to the “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’” — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images.

The photos are described.

It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.

Bezos:

Well, that got my attention. But not in the way they likely hoped. Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can? (On that point, numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake.)

In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: 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. 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.

These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism. 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. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.

From an email on Wednesday from Fine, Jon (Deputy General Counsel, AMI) to Martin Singer (Mr de Becker’s attorney)

Here are our proposed terms:

2. A public, mutually-agreed upon acknowledgment from the Bezos Parties, released through a mutually-agreeable news outlet, affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility.

3. AM agrees not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos (the “Unpublished Materials”).

6. In the case of a breach of the agreement by one or more of the Bezos Parties, AM is released from its obligations under the agreement, and may publish the Unpublished Materials.

Whether that constitutes blackmail and/or extortion, or whether it will warrant legal action or investigation, will no doubt unfold.

AMI has issued a statement in response:

“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos. 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.”

Pecker is one of four AMI board members.

CNBC: National Enquirer publisher believes it ‘acted lawfully’ on Bezos story, vows to investigate matter

AMI’s assertion that it violated no laws in its reporting matters beyond the Bezos affair. In December, the tabloid publisher struck an immunity deal with federal prosecutors in connection with the $150,000 hush-money payment the supermarket tabloid gave to a Playboy model who claims she had an affair with Trump.

That agreement requires that AMI “shall commit no crimes whatsoever.” If it turns out that Bezos’ blackmail allegations are confirmed, AMI could lose its immunity.

Brett Kappel, a lawyer specializing in political finance and ethics at Akerman LLP, said AMI’s immunity deal could be at risk.

“AMI is looking at the very real possibility that it may be found to have breached the nonprosecution agreement and could be prosecuted both for the crimes that were the subject of the nonprosecution agreement and any subsequent crimes,” Kappel told CNBC.

“In addition, the lawyers involved will almost certainly face disciplinary proceedings by the New York State Bar and could be disbarred,” Kappel added.

Former federal prosecutor David Weinstein told CNBC that Bezos’ accusation “certainly sounds like extortion or blackmail.” But he cautioned that “sounding like something and actually filing charges are two different things. AMI will undoubtedly argue that their statements were simply litigation negotiation strategy.”

This raises the tensions between media and politics in the US. There is big money and big power in both politics and the media there. The whole kaboodle looks dysfunctional and a corruption of power.

Whether this latest move from Bezos lifts a scab or just adds more puss is yet to be seen.

Threatening journalists to toe the line

In the introduction to the Dirty Politics series against Fran O’Sullivan (And so we begin) ‘Cameron Slater’ quoted Nicky Hager on Q & A”

“If you see a name of a journalist in the book, they are the ones I don’t think have done anything wrong, they’re just incidental to the story. Every journalist who had been taking stories in dodgy ways from David Farrar, one of the bloggers, or Cameron Slater or from the prime minister’s office, I actually left their names out. I decided not to do the journalists basically.

All apart from Rachel Glucina, who Hager described as “despicable”.

Although Hager highlighted the problem of media being played by Slater and others, he also said he understood the demands of the industry.

“I think that a whole lot of people had done things which were dodgy and wrong. In other words they knew that their prime minister’s office was feeding them information and you could get really easy stories.

“You were being used but it was giving you another headline in a job which is very busy and competitive, where people want to get stuff, so there’s a ton of horrible temptation to keep being an outlet for Cameron Slater and people.

The people I’m talking about are in the press gallery, senior journalists. Basically I didn’t want to humiliate them, I wanted to give them room to think again and do it differently. That was the reason. Because we’re a small country and there are only going to be the same senior journalists the year after and the year after that, so let them change their minds on it.”

‘Slater’ responded to that:

So Nicky Hager was threatening journalists to toe the line, and change, otherwise he’d out them.

Today in comments on the Fran O’Sullivan, Secret tip-offs and Bullying an OIA Requester post Whale Oil adminstrator/moderator Pete Belt responded to a comment:

Why is Osullivan digging a hole for herself, she must know what she does will leak out and hurt her.?

  •  

    The picture is starting to form of someone who has a high regard for herself (and assumes it is widely shared by others) thinking she is protected. The sad thing is that true loyalty is very hard to come by in life. In business, and media, it’s almost non existent.

    The amusing thing is that we warned her. Not only did she not stop, she turned on Whaleoil. We then warned her again to stop. She did not. Her attacks on Cam/Whaleoil increased.

    Well, you can only conclude she was comfortable with the idea of being the subject of a year-long Whaleoil investigation. It’s a amazing what you can dig up when you talk to all the people that have been left damaged and hurt by someone over the years.

    And the best bit is still to come.

  • That sounds very similar to “threatening journalists to toe the line, and change, otherwise…”

    What’s going on with Mediaworks and Rachinger?

    The Rachinger plots took another turn today with a story that has gone international. Noosa News reports Intimate photos of journalist published online.

    The images were published on a blog this morning showing Radio Live political editor Jessica Williams in a series of personal photographs. Ms Williams was named Journalist of the Year at this year’s NZ Radio Awards.

    The pictures were understood to have been taken and sent in a private context to an individual not involved in the blog which published the images. The Herald will not be publishing the name of the blog.

    It claimed it had obtained the images when they were circulated with the intent of embarrassing Ms Williams and harming her career but gave no explanation for why it had published the pictures.

    A Mediaworks spokesman said the company was aware of “certain matters relating to the publication of private images” of Ms Williams.

    It seems that these images were circulated in December and it has been widely known amongst journalists. There has been mention made of attempted blackmail.

    Ben Rachinger has been trying to get media interested in his claims that Cameron Slater paid him to hack rival political blog The Standard.

    The Nation ran his story in the weekend. The Nation is broadcast by TV3, a Mediaworks company.

    As reported above Mediaworks say they were aware of “certain matters” yet ran a story, highlighting it as ‘Dirty Politics’, that was favourable to Rachinger.

    It wouldn’t be too much of stretch to think that their RadioLive political editor was aware of their investigation and story.

    This raises questions.Was Williams aware of the investigation/story? If so was she in favour of the story being run? Did she contribute to the story? Did she push for the story to be run? If so was it voluntary or under some sort of pressure?

    It’s not inconceivable that Williams and/or Mediaworks wanted the story run to try and avoid embarrassment.

    Of course there could be a simpler explanation for all this, but are we likely to get one?