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Was the National Enquirer’s ‘catch and kill’ story on Jeff Bezos politically motivated?

The National Enquirer is photographed at a convenience store on February 8, 2019 in New York City.
The National Enquirer is photographed at a convenience store on February 8, 2019 in New York City.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he was the target of "extortion and blackmail" by the publisher of the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish revealing personal photos of him unless he stopped investigating how the tabloid obtained his private exchanges with his mistress.

Bezos, who is also owner of The Washington Post, detailed his interactions with American Media Inc., or AMI, in an extraordinary blog post Thursday on The billionaire did not say the tabloid was seeking money - instead, he said, the Enquirer wanted him to make a public statement that the tabloid's coverage was not politically motivated.

Bezos' accusations add another twist to a high-profile clash between the world's richest man and the leader of America's best-known tabloid, a strong backer of President Donald Trump. Bezos' investigators have suggested the Enquirer's coverage of his affair - which included the release of risque texts - was driven by dirty politics. In a statement on Friday, American Media said it "acted lawfully" and was engaged in "good faith negotiations" with Bezos.

But the company said its board of directors met and determined it should "promptly and thoroughly investigate" Bezos' allegations and would take "whatever appropriate action is necessary" following the investigation.

The company has admitted in the past that it engaged in what's known as "catch-and-kill" practices to help Trump become president. Trump has been highly critical of Bezos and the Post's coverage of the White House.

With files from the Associated Press.


Michael Overing, principal of The Law Offices of Michael Overing in Pasadena; adjunct professor of media law at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

Kelly McBride, senior vice president at The Poynter Institute and head of the The Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at Poynter