Bezos report: A political hit job?
“Memo to the honchos at the National Enquirer,” said John Cassidy in NewYorker.com: If you’re going to try to blackmail the world’s richest man, don’t do it in writing. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos exposed the supermarket tabloid’s “intimidation tactics” in an astonishing blog post last week, just a month after the Enquirer published a detailed account of his infidelity. Unless Bezos publicly retracted his statement that the Enquirer’s hit job on him was “politically motivated,” the Enquirer said in a threatening letter, it would publish more sexually explicit photos stolen from his phone. To his credit, Bezos—the owner of The Washington Post—published the Enquirer’s threatening letter and vowed to give a private investigator unlimited funds to find out how and why the supermarket tabloid got into his phone. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out,” he wrote. Bezos’ investigator thinks the leaked texts came from the conservative brother of Bezos’ lover, a supporter of President Trump who’s friendly with Trump crony Roger Stone.
What a masterful diversion, said Holman Jenkins in The Wall Street Journal. It would be very convenient for Bezos to turn a story about his philandering into “a character assassination on behalf of Trump,” who openly hates the Post’s coverage of his presidency. Bezos’ investigator is also looking into Enquirer owner David Pecker’s ties to the Saudi Arabian government, which was angered by the Post’s publication of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi’s scathing opinion pieces. But barring some major revelation, the Enquirer was simply doing what it always does, “and is legally entitled to do”—“shamelessly trafficking in the scandals of the rich and famous.”
In this case, however, the Enquirer may face real legal jeopardy, said former federal prosecutor Elie Honig in CNN.com. Bezos says he’s turned over the tabloid’s threats to prosecutors for possible prosecution as “extortion.” Though the legal definition of that crime can be murky, the Enquirer’s demand that Bezos end his investigation or suffer public ridicule may qualify. No wonder Pecker and Co. are now panicking, said former federal prosecutor Harry Litman in WashingtonPost.com. Earlier this year, his company made a deal with federal prosecutors investigating the tabloid’s “catch and kill” tactics used on behalf of the Trump campaign. That agreement is void if the company is found to have committed any crimes. The Enquirer has made a “colossal blunder.”