In a bombshell post on Medium, published last night, billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accused the owner of the National Enquirer of blackmailing him in order to put a halt to Bezos’s investigation of how the paper obtained intimate photos and texts between him and Lauren Sanchez, a woman with whom he is in an intimate relationship. (Bezos recently announced his divorce from his wife of 25 years.)
This isn’t the Enquirer’s first scandal involving powerful people. Here are some of the paper’s biggest clashes in recent years.
2019: Jeff Bezos
Bezos claimed that the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., was threatening to publish explicit photos of him and Sanchez and also explicitly named David Pecker, chairman of AMI and the publisher of the Enquirer, and Dylan Howard, AMI’s chief content officer. Bezos alludes to his ownership of The Washington Post and its coverage of Donald Trump, a longtime friend of Pecker’s, as possible political motivation for AMI’s actions.
Shortly after Bezos and his wife Mackenzie announced their divorce, news broke that Bezos was seeing Sanchez. Hours later, the Enquirer published intimate details of the relationship, claiming that it had obtained private texts and photos between the couple. Parts of the texts were published, but the photos — including what was described as a “below the belt selfie” — remain unseen.
When Bezos launched an investigation into how the paper got those exchanges, he says AMI threatened to publish them unless he and his lawyer publicly stated that they “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
2018: Donald Trump
Last March, Pecker was accused of using his tabloid to cover up President Trump’s affair. Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, sued AMI in order to be released from a legal agreement she made with the company in 2016 that prevents her from speaking about her alleged relationship with Trump. She claims Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, pulled what is known as a “catch and kill” by encouraging AMI to buy the rights to her story for $150,000, and then never publishing it. AMI admitted it coordinated with Trump’s presidential campaign to provide the hush money, but Pecker now has immunity in the federal investigation into Trump’s actions.
2017: Harvey Weinstein
AMI was also allegedly part of Harvey Weinstein’s operation for discrediting women whom he feared would accuse him of sexual assault and the journalists who were trying to expose those allegations, as revealed in an explosive New Yorker piece last year. Ronan Farrow reported that AMI’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard (also named in the Bezos post) gave Weinstein information on Rose McGowan that could discredit her potential accusations against Weinstein. Last night, Farrow tweeted that he and another journalist received similar blackmail threats from AMI when he was investigating the Trump story.
2017: Richard Simmons
The former fitness star—who has been largely out of the public eye since 2014—unsuccessfully sued the Enquirer for publishing a story in 2016 alleging he had “undergone shocking sex swap surgery” and was now living as a woman. Simmons sought damages for multiple counts of libel and invasion of privacy, but lost his case, and was ordered to pay the paper nearly $130,000.
2007: Tiger Woods
As reported in a 2010 Wall Street Journal piece, in 2007, after Enquirer reporters obtained photographs allegedly showing Tiger Woods engaged in an affair, he agreed to a Men’s Fitness cover story in exchange for killing the story (Men’s Fitness is also an AMI title). AMI denied the Journal’s allegations, and Pecker declined to comment to the Journal. Ironically, it was the Enquirer who broke the explosive story in November 2009 that Woods had an affair with Rachel Uchitel. Woods crashed his car shortly after that story broke, and the scandal deepened as over a dozen women came forward claiming to have had an affair with him.
2005: Bill Cosby
Back in 2005, Beth Ferrier — one of Bill Cosby’s accusers, who ultimately joined Andrea Constand’s suit against him, resulting in his 2018 conviction of sexual assault and sentence of 3 to 10 years in prison — said the Enquirer promised her $7,500 for her story, but she was never paid. Instead, according to The Daily Beast, the paper took her accusations to Cosby, then agreed to kill her story in exchange for a front-page exclusive interview with him. In his deposition from Constand’s civil suit (which became public in 2015) Cosby also revealed that he got to see the story before it ran. The Beast reported that AMI agreed none of its publications would “run any stories for two years about Cosby having extramarital affairs, drugging women, or engaging in sexual contact with women while they were incapacitated, according to the contract Cosby signed.”