Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, accused the American tabloid National Enquirer of blackmail and extortion this week. In a detailed Medium post, the CEO of Amazon wrote that American Media Inc., the company that publishes National Enquirer, ‘‘will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we ‘have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.’ ’’
AMI may not be looking just to sell papers. The threats to publish embarrassing photos could be a political tool in the hands of one of Donald Trump’s allies: David Pecker, chairman and CEO of AMI.
Bezos owns The Washington Post, which has investigated the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was critical of Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, one of Trump’s biggest allies abroad. ‘‘It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos wrote. “President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.’’
Bezos unveiled emails from AMI describing in detail photos it has and is ready to publish in case if ‘‘we didn’t stop our investigation.’’
Photos of Bezos naked would probably make a movie plot for billionaire’s production company. But another drama also unfolded this week. The director Woody Allen is suing Amazon Studios for $68 million over the company’s cancellation of an agreement to release his new movie, “A Rainy Day in New York.”
Allen has long faced accusations of sexual assault from his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. Amazon Studios executives decided that the allegations could have negative impact on company’s reputation.
According to the lawsuit, “Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old, baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen.”
Amazon itself is facing other challenges as it reconsidering its plan to open a second headquarters in New York after opposition from political leaders and activists.
On Friday New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke of the opportunities Amazon could bring to the city and blamed politicians for trying to take tangible benefits away from New Yorkers.
“For the state Senate to oppose Amazon was governmental malpractice,” Cuomo said. “And if they stop Amazon from coming to New York, they’re going to have the people of New York State to explain it to. It is irresponsible to allow political opposition to overcome sound government policy.”
This blockbuster would probably be enough to send any other company’s stock price plunging, but Amazon took the punch with just slight daily movements of 1.6%.