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Bezos' Blackmail Claims Get a Response From AMI

And more on the Amazon founder's allegations of blackmail
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2019 10:05 AM CST

(Newser) – Jeff Bezos was made an offer he couldn't refuse and refused it, very publicly, on Thursday, by way of a Medium blog post that outlined National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc.'s (AMI) alleged attempt to blackmail him with sexual photos. AMI responded Friday morning with a statement picked up by CNN, saying it "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." CNN notes AMI CEO David Pecker is one of four board members. More:

  • That statement syncs with one lawyer's take on how AMI might defend itself against allegations of extortion. LA-based attorney Robert Schwartz told Bloomberg the company could claim the emails were simply communications between lawyers who are seeking to resolve a dispute. "The Enquirer has a lot of lawyers and wouldn't do this kind of thing without first talking it through with them."

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  • And if that doesn't work? The National Enquirer could face some very real legal trouble because of its plea deal with federal prosecutors. The company, Pecker, and another exec got immunity in September in exchange for cooperating with the Michael Cohen investigation (background on that here). AMI agreed to not "commit any crimes subsequent to the date of the signing of this agreement" for a three-year period, reports Bloomberg. Violating that—and extortion would be a violation—means it could be prosecuted for the charges it had been facing, among them perjury and obstruction.
  • If AMI might be the loser in all this, then Medium is the winner, writes Casey Newton at the Verge. "Every office in Silicon Valley came to a screeching halt around 3PM PT on Thursday, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos published a blog post that we will be talking about for years to come. ... This was the best day on Medium of all time."
  • But Newton has another takeaway, this one about nude photos, which "almost everyone has" at this point. Newton notes that sex columnist Dan Savage has suggested we'll eventually get to a tipping point where so many nudes have leaked that people don't tremble in fear at the idea. "Bezos' post feels like an important move in that regard ... his move helped to normalize the act of taking them and sharing them. Five years ago, if your nudes got leaked, the blame was generally on you; going forward, the blame is going to be on the jerks that stole them."
  • In his post, Bezos wrote that Gavin de Becker has been given an unlimited budget to investigate how AMI got his photos, adding that de Becker's "expertise in this arena is excellent." So what is that expertise? The Washington Post opens the door on "an unremarkable warehouse outside Los Angeles," where hundreds of thousands of threatening letters have been filed by a firm led by de Becker, "arguably the world’s foremost expert on threatening messages. De Becker has charted a unique course by simultaneously offering celebrities quiet protection from the scariest elements of their fame, while also becoming ... [a] go-to source for predicting assassinations and other bloody attacks." The profile is fascinating.

  • The Week looks at another figure in the AMI-Bezos feud, and it's a man who has connections to both sides. AMI's deputy general counsel is Jon Fine, and per the emails republished by Bezos, his emails included the terms of what AMI wanted from Bezos in exchange for keeping the photos under wraps. Fine has been with AMI since November; from 2006 to 2015, he worked for ... Bezos at Amazon.
  • This is about much more than nude selfies, writes Josh Marshall at TPM. "The hyper-aggressive nature of AMI’s actions here tells me there’s something much bigger in play here." His piece outlines the ties between Bezos, the Washington Post, Saudi Arabia, Jamal Khashoggi, and President Trump.
  • To wit, the Week notes that Washington Post reporter Manual Roig-Franzia was on MSNBC last night, and recounted a conversation he had with de Becker, in which de Becker said he didn't think Bezos' photos were obtained by hacking. De Becker "thinks it's possible that a government entity might have gotten hold of his text messages," said Roig-Franzia.
  • Headline of the day: The New York Post and HuffPost went with identical ones: Bezos Exposes Pecker.
  • Speaking of word choice, one of Bezos' is getting quite the once-over. He wrote that "even though The Post is a complexifier for me, I do not at all regret my investment." Twitter immediately pounced on "complexifier," wondering if it is even a word. Is it? Mashable writes that it exists in French but not English, though the word did begin showing up very infrequently in English language books in 1953. Slate speaks to that latter point, writing, "Complexifier, in fact, appears most at home in the canon of self-help business gobbledygook."
(Read more Jeff Bezos stories.)

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