The National Enquirer has picked a fight with the newly crowned richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, the mastermind behind Amazon. Bezos dethroned Bill Gates as the wealthiest man in the world in 2018. According to Bezos, the National Enquirer tried to blackmail him into dropping a story that the Washington Post ran on Donald Trump and the National Enquirer’s ties to the president. The newspaper, which has always run a bizarre combination of celebrity sleaze pieces, outright conspiracy theories, and the occasional journalism is considered by many to be the original “Fake News”.
The National Enquirer is owned by a parent company known as American Media Inc. Bezos claims that attorneys for the company tried to blackmail him with the lurid details of his extramarital affair. Bezos announced in January that he and his wife were divorcing and an affair could potentially impact the divorce settlement.
The Case of the Stolen Text Messages
In 2012, there was a scandal involving a British newspaper called the News of the World. The newspaper, which was owned by Rupert Murdoch, allegedly hacked into the cell phone of a missing girl and deleted messages in order to gain new information. The family of the girl, who was monitoring her phone, believed that she was still alive based on that interaction. The newspaper was dissolved amid the scandal.
The National Enquirer is now facing a similar issue. It appears that they had access to some of Bezos’ private text messages to his mistress. If this is the case, they could be facing criminal charges.
The Enquirer’s claims didn’t end with a handful of text messages, however. They claimed they had a “below-the-belt selfie” that Bezos had presumably sent to his mistress. The Enquirer allegedly threatened to publish these selfies is Bezos did not lean on the Washington Post to drop its investigation into companies that had ties to Trump. American Media was hoping to leverage Bezos into publicly stating that the company had no ties to Trump and its “journalism” was not motivated political factors. Bezos himself has published what he claims are emails sent by the Enquirer detailing the entire interlude.
If Bezos’ accusations are true, then the Enquirer, which is already mired in significant debt, could face a civil trial that will drive it into bankruptcy. Additionally, those responsible for committing the blackmail could find themselves facing prison sentences. If attorneys are involved, they will likely face disbarment. Those conducting the blackmail would be guilty of extortion and those responsible for hacking the phone could face hacking charges.
According to the USA Today article, American Media Inc. offered Bezos a settlement in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement. But one of the things that’s nice about being the richest man on the planet, is that you can’t be so easily bought.
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