Call off the Washington Post’s investigation, or we’ll publish your “d*ck pick.”
That was the shocking demand made this week by Dylan Howard, chief content officer of The National Enquirer’s parent company, to Jeff Bezos’ security chief and his lawyer.
The threat—which included the release of more sexually charged photos and text messages —was disclosed Thursday evening by Bezos, the world’s richest man and the owner of The Washington Post.
Bezos published a series of emails on Thursday from Howard and Jon Fine, American Media Inc’s deputy general counsel, that Bezos described as an attempt to extort him into killing an investigation into potential political motives behind a prior Enquirer exposé on the Amazon chief.
Fine and Howard were spurred by an impending piece on the investigation by the Bezos-owned Washington Post, a follow-up to a pair of stories published by The Daily Beast last week. Those stories reported that Gavin de Becker, a longtime Bezos security consultant put in charge of investigating a prior leak of Bezos’ texts to the Enquirer, strongly suspected that the leak was politically motivated.
In the process of reporting those stories, The Daily Beast and a member of its staff were threatened by AMI’s attorneys. After Bezos' post late Thursday, journalist Ronan Farrow also wrote in a tweet that he and another “prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump” had dealt with “blackmail” efforts from AMI.
Fine, in his email to Bezos’ attorney, demanded 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.”
In exchange, Fine wrote, AMI would agree “not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos,” which Howard said included a number of sexually suggestive images of Bezos and his lover, Los Angeles news anchor Lauren Sanchez. Among them was a “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick [sic].’”
Bezos wrote in a post on Medium on Thursday evening that he interpreted Fine’s and Howard’s communications as attempts to coerce him into contradicting the stated findings of his own investigator—or halting the investigation altogether.
“Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here,” wrote Bezos, the world’s richest man. “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”
In his post, Bezos affirmed reporting by The Daily Beast that he and de Becker suspect political motives behind the previous leak of his texts to the Enquirer. Among those de Becker has interviewed as part of his inquiry is Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos’ mistress and a personal and business association of notable Trumpworld figures including Roger Stone and Carter Page.
AMI chief executive David Pecker has used the Enquirer in the past to promote Donald Trump, his longtime friend, most notably by paying hush money to one of Trump’s alleged mistresses in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. That payment caught the eye of federal prosecutors, who declined to bring charges against Pecker and Howard in exchange for their cooperation.
Michael Sanchez suggested to the Post that the Enquirer’s Bezos story was “a takedown to make Trump happy.”
In his Medium post, Bezos also mentioned David Pecker’s documented closeness with the Saudi royal family, whom he’s used his tabloid empire to promote, and suggested that de Becker’s investigation into the Enquirer leak is probing that avenue as well.
“The Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” Bezos wrote.