Here's the complete timeline of the feud between Jeff Bezos and the National Enquirer, including the ties to President Trump
Getty/Marion Curtis/AP/Joe Raedle/Business Insider composite
- On Thursday, Jeff Bezos published a bombshell blog post in which he claimed that the National Enquirer was engaging in "extortion and blackmail" over his intimate personal texts and photos.
- It's the latest dramatic development in a feud that started in early January, when Bezos announced that he and wife MacKenzie Bezos were seeking a divorce - shortly before a story in the National Enquirer revealed that the Amazon CEO was having an extramarital affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez.
- The story has only gotten more complicated, as Bezos himself has insinuated that there could have been political motives behind the investigation into his personal life.
- Here's what you need to know about the saga, and how it involves President Donald Trump.
On January 9, Jeff Bezos announced that he and his wife, MacKenzie, were seeking a divorce. The couple said in a statement: "As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends."
The Bezos couple first met when working at the the investment management firm D.E. Shaw & Co., before Jeff Bezos even founded Amazon. The couple was married for 25 years, and have four kids together.Advertisement
News of the impending divorce raised questions about its impact on the net worth of Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world. The couple reportedly didn't sign a prenup agreement, meaning MacKenzie Bezos could potentially be entitled to half of the Amazon CEO's $131 billion fortune.
In response to a question about the Bezos divorce, Donald Trump told reporters he wished the Amazon CEO good luck, and said the divorce was "going to be a beauty." He later took to Twitter to gift Jeff Bezos with a new nickname: "Jeff Bozo."Advertisement
Hours after news of the divorce broke, the National Enquirer reported that Jeff Bezos has been dating a former TV host named Lauren Sanchez — and said that it had conducted a 4-month-long investigation into the affair.
Sanchez, 49, works in media, and is also a licensed pilot who owns an aerial-filming company. She's married to Patrick Whitesell, the co-CEO of mega-influential Hollywood talent agency WME. The couple has reportedly been separated since fall 2018. Sanchez has three children — two with Whitesell, and one from a previous marriage.Advertisement
The National Enquirer said that its reporters had tracked Bezos and Sanchez "across five states and 40,000 miles, tailed them in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, five-star hotel hideaways, intimate dinner dates and 'quality time' in hidden love nests."
The National Enquirer also said it had obtained "raunchy messages and erotic selfies" exchanged between Bezos and Sanchez, including "one steamy picture too explicit to print here." One of the texts Bezos sent to Sanchez reportedly read: "I love you, alive girl."Advertisement
A Washington Post story later reported that Bezos purposely announced his divorce on Twitter as a way to preempt the National Enquirer report.
On January 30th, the Daily Beast reported Jeff Bezos was personally funding an investigation into who leaked his private photos and texts to the National Enquirer. The report said initial findings didn't indicate that either Bezos' or Sanchez' phones were hacked.Advertisement
The investigation into the leaked text messages is headed up by Gavin de Becker, who serves as Bezos' personal chief of security. De Becker is an expert known as the "security guru to the stars," with previous clients including Madonna, Cher, and John Travolta.
De Becker told the Daily Beast he was considering the theory that the leak to the National Enquirer was "politically motivated." AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, has repeatedly denied this.Advertisement
Initially, de Becker and investigators set their sights on Lauren Sanchez's brother, Michael Sanchez. Michael Sanchez is an outspoken Trump supporter who reportedly has ties to prominent allies of the president, including Roger Stone. Michael Sanchez has denied all involvement in leaking the texts.
As for the notion that there are political motives at play: Jeff Bezos and President Trump have a frosty relationship — Bezos criticized Trump during the 2016 election cycle, and the Bezos-owned Washington Post has published coverage critical of Trump and his administration.Advertisement
The National Enquirer's publisher, AMI, is headed up by David Pecker, who has a friendship with President Trump that dates back to the 1990s. Pecker is said to have engaged in a practice called "catch and kill" — where Pecker would help cover up any news stories that might cast Trump in an unflattering light.
Besides Pecker, another AMI executive also has links to Trump. David Hughes, one of the four men who serve on AMI's board of directors, once served as the chief financial officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts up until it filed for bankruptcy in September 2014.Advertisement
It's still not clear how, exactly, the National Enquirer got ahold of Bezos' private texts and photos. Some have speculated that foreign governments were involved, or that it was even hostile action from one of Amazon's competitors in the tech sector.
On Thursday, Bezos took everyone by surprise when he published a blog post that accused Pecker and AMI of "extortion and blackmail." Bezos claimed AMI threatened to release the intimate photos it had acquired unless he agreed to stop investigating the leaks and made a public statement denying the leaks were politically motivated — two things he says he refused to do.Advertisement
"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," wrote Bezos in his defiant blog post. He also appeared to include copies of the emails that had been sent to him by lawyers representing AMI.
Bezos also hinted that there are ties between the National Enquirer's investigation into his personal life, and the Saudi government. Bezos highlighted Pecker's reported personal ties to the Saudis, and wrote that "the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve" with Pecker.Advertisement
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, worked for the Bezos-owned Washington Post — leading some to speculate that the Saudis were somehow involved with the National Enquirer investigation, especially given Bezos' blog post. On Friday, the Saudi minister of foreign affairs denied that the country had any role in the feud between Bezos and AMI.
Response on social media to Bezos' blog post has been generally positive. People on Twitter praised Bezos for demonstrating "raw power" and "accepting personal responsibility," as he stands up to alleged blackmail even at the risk of his intimate photos getting out into the world.Advertisement
In the wake of Bezos' blog post, several journalists — including New Yorker contributor Ronan Farrow — have come forward with their own claims that AMI tried to threaten them into stopping their reporting.
On Friday, AMI said in a statement that it believes it "acted lawfully" and "in good faith" in its reporting on Bezos and Sanchez. However, AMI also said its board of directors would thoroughly investigate Bezos' claims and would take "whatever appropriate action is necessary" upon its findings. Pecker serves as chairman of the board.Advertisement