Michael Sanchez, the Hollywood talent agent who allegedly leaked Jeff Bezos’ racy text messages to the National Enquirer, has a history of weaponizing his connections at AMI and the Enquirer on behalf of—and sometimes against—his former clients.
Sanchez leaked information about client Scottie Nell Hughes’ affair with Fox Business host Charles Payne to the Enquirer, two sources told The Daily Beast. An explosive lawsuit he filed against another former client, So You Think You Can Dance judge Mary Murphy, ended up an exclusive story in AMI-owned Radar Online on the same day it was filed.
That was years before Sanchez found himself at the center of the war between Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company. As The Daily Beast has reported, Sanchez was the alleged source of racy text messages between Bezos and his sister, Lauren Sanchez, that wound up splashed on the pages of the Enquirer last month.
Sanchez has denied (though not to The Daily Beast) leaking Bezos’ texts, but AMI has described the culprit as a longtime Enquirer source. Sanchez also acknowledged this week that he is friends with Dylan Howard, a top executive at AMI who shared a byline on the Enquirer’s Bezos story. And Sanchez admitted that he provided pictures of his sister to an AMI publication, Us Weekly.
Sanchez did not respond to a request to comment for this story. Instead, he posted to Twitter, “People who belong in prison & gutter trash reporters are now threatening to twist my work into something bad with false & defamatory smears. #Yawn.”
Sanchez has had a handful of clients in the entertainment industry—in addition to Hughes and Murphy, he’s repped director Jeffrey Fisher, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Cedric Martinez, and So You Think You Can Dance judge Dan Karaty—many of whom have appeared in AMI publications.
While some of the items have been fluff pieces—others have been less than flattering.
In July 2017, the Enquirer broke the story of an affair between Hughes and Payne. Soon after, AMI-owned Radar Online published a leaked email from Payne to Hughes containing pictures of a blonde wearing a string bikini in a Confederate flag pattern. “I have no problem with this,” Payne wrote. “Shocking Emails & Dirty Photos,” the story’s headline blared.
Hughes went on to file a lawsuit against Fox claiming the network had leaked her name in retaliation after an alleged sexual assault by Payne. But in fact, the leak had originated from Sanchez, two sources confirmed to The Daily Beast.
Sanchez, it appears, could boost and undermine at the same time. In October 2017, he messaged a reporter about a new Enquirer story with a headline that Hughes had been “raped by sick Fox News sex friend.”
He wrote that while “it's presented as ‘world exclusive interview with the National Enquirer,’ I can assure you, Scottie has never done an interview for the National Enquirer, nor does she ever plan to do one. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask,” according to an email reviewed by The Daily Beast.
Hughes, now an on-air host at RT America, declined to comment to The Daily Beast about her dealings with Sanchez. A Fox News spokesperson also declined to comment.
Several people who’ve dealt with Sanchez, both professionally and personally, would not go on the record with The Daily Beast, out of fear of retaliation from Sanchez, who knowledgeable sources uniformly described as vindictive and duplicitous.
“Very few people who worked with Michael Sanchez are still friends with him. He runs through friends and clients like water,” one person who has worked with him said.
These sources also confirmed Sanchez’s penchant for supplying information to AMI, the tabloid empire run by David Pecker, a longtime friend and political ally of President Donald Trump’s.
Two sources familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast that, when Sanchez was representing former liberal Fox News commentator and current clemency and pardon attorney Tamara Holder, he would routinely suggest strategy that appeared to undermine his own client and often verge on erratic. He also suggested multiple times that they leak information to Radar Online, these sources said.
Asked about details of her relationship with Sanchez, Holder declined to comment.
But Holder’s past with Sanchez does throw a spotlight on what several people who’ve known him describe as his two-faced manner of operating.
In October 2017, The Daily Beast reported on Holder’s falling out with her former attorney Lisa Bloom, who Holder argued had poorly served her during Holder’s sexual-assault complaint against a Fox executive.
Sanchez was there to leap to Bloom’s defense and instead chide Holder, his one-time client, telling The Daily Beast at the time that he would question the “priorities of someone who… instead of focusing on her abusers and helping other victims, she attacks the attorney who fought so hard to secure her victory.” (The same year Bloom was representing Holder, she was, apparently unbeknownst to Holder, also repping accused rapist and former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.)
Sanchez’s defense of Bloom appeared to clash with emails he sent to Holder around this time, which among other things read, “We are going to use Lisa Bloom’s cowardice to elevate you and destroy her. I will thank God until the day I die for her greed and all of the emails we have!!!!!” (Holder provided these emails to The Daily Beast in late 2017.)
And beyond Hughes and Holder, other Sanchez clients had a penchant for winding up in the pages of AMI tabloids.
AMI magazines like Radar Online and OK! hailed Sanchez’s client, Hallmark filmmaker Jeff Fisher, as a "super hot Hollywood director” and "Hollywood's next big thing," earning him congratulations from Sanchez on his “well-deserved recognition.”
News clips on Martinez’s website boasted that the National Enquirer had identified Cedric Martinez, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star, as the latest romantic interest of former NSYNC singer Lance Bass. When Martinez had a falling out with one of his Real Housewives co-stars, Radar Online got hold of an email from the show’s producer to Sanchez discussing the incident.
When Murphy, a client of Sanchez’s and a judge on So You Think You Can Dance—then hosted by Michael’s sister Lauren Sanchez—parted ways with him, Sanchez levied the wild charge that Murphy was a “desperate, cocaine-fueled nymphomaniac” in a breach of contract lawsuit filed in 2012. The suit alleged Murphy had an “addiction to plastic surgery,” engaged in a “cocaine-fueled evening of partying,” and had “many inappropriate sexual relationships” with crew members from So You Think You Can Dance and Chelsea Lately.
On the same day that Sanchez filed the suit, Radar Online hyped the “new bombshell lawsuit” that it said it had “exclusively obtained.” (Murphy did not respond to a request to comment for this story.)
Until recently, Sanchez’s connection to these AMI properties would have been nothing more than a minor Hollywood curiosity. Then The Daily Beast reported this week that Sanchez provided Bezos’ texts to the National Enquirer, which published them as part of a lengthy exposé on the Amazon chief’s affair with Sanchez’s sister. Since then, investigators tasked by Bezos with digging into the leak confirmed that Sanchez was the Enquirer’s source.
AMI has refused to comment on its source, and declined to comment for this story. But in an appearance on ABC over the weekend, an attorney for the company, Elkan Abramowitz, told George Stephanopoulos that the leaker was “well known to both Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez,” and had provided the Enquirer with leaks and tips for years.
In a document reviewed by The Daily Beast, Sanchez states his belief about who might be behind the leaks. He speculates that Republican “operatives” might somehow have played a role. And he also notes, that “other less likely potential sources includ[e] Lauren’s employees, ‘friends.’”
—with additional reporting by Noah Shachtman