Growing Enquirer “sextortion” scandal could add to Trump’s woes
The Enquirer has published a steady stream of positive stories about the Trump administration and his pal, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ruler of Saudi Arabia. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Is it possible that the president of the United States could be involved in a scandal that includes threats by a notorious tabloid to release salacious photos of Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post?

A question like that would itself long have been regarded the stuff of a scandal sheet but, unfortunately these days, it’s one that now needs to be asked.

    Jeff Bezos. AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Yesterday, Bezos went online charging the National Enquirer and its owner, American Media Inc., with threatening to release salacious pictures of him unless he called off a private investigation he was conducting of the Enquirer. Bezos was investigating how the tabloid had obtained copies of text messages exposing his affair with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV news personality.

Bezos charged that David Pecker, who runs the Enquirer, wanted him to issue a public lie. The lie that Pecker wanted Bezos to tell was the he (Bezos) and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”

AMI has been known for its glowing coverage of all kinds of right-wing heroes, including the president and his administration, the Trump family, and the Saudi princes involved in the killing of Washington Post columnist, Jamal Kashoggi.

Bezos refused to buckle under the threat of public embarrassment and, instead, published emails the Enquirer had sent to a lawyer representing his man, de Becker. In one of those emails, Enquirer editor Dylan Howard says, essentially, that the paper would publish salacious photos of Bezos and Sanchez if Bezos dis not agree to AMI’s demands. It essentially amounted to blackmail.

This morning, there were reports on MSNBC that Ronan Farrow, a Pulitzer Prize winner, had received similar blackmail threats from the Enquirer after he had written stories that were uncomplimentary to the Enquirer’s style of journalism—the so-called catch-and-kill approach, whereby the paper purchases the exclusive right to the stories of accusers or whistleblowers but then never prints them in order to protect the accused.

AMI and the Enquirer are loyal supporters of President Trump and the rulers of Saudi Arabia, both of whom have been unhappy with Washington Post coverage of their operations in Washington and in Riyadh. The Post has been particularly zealous in going after both regarding the murder of their columnist. Last month, the Bezos consultant, de Becker, was quoted in various media outlets as saying that the Enquirer had obvious political motivations for going after Bezos.

Earlier this month, the Post reported that Bezos suspected the texts and photos were leaked by Lauren Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, a public relations executive who is very close to Pecker, Roger Stone, and Carter Page. Michael Sanchez was told, according to the Post, by numerous sources at AMI that the Enquirer was about to do “a takedown to make Trump happy.”

     David Pecker. Marion Curtis via AP

Pecker seems to have put himself and AMI directly—and Trump indirectly—into some new and deeper trouble. AMI has a non-prosecution deal regarding Pecker’s illegal pay-off to Karen McDougal for her silence before the election regarding an affair with Donald Trump. That immunity deal becomes null and void however, if Pecker or AMI have done anything illegal—which of course they have if the Bezos allegations are true.

One of the most troubling parts of the mess is the Saudi connection. Trump has disputed clear evidence that Kashoggi was killed on the orders of Saudi Arabia’s actual ruler, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Last year, a beautiful, full cover glossy magazine appeared in supermarkets all over the United States and even in other countries. It was full of flattery toward Saudi Arabia, its prince, and all of the alleged “reforms” taking place there. The magazine’s publisher? Pecker’s AMI.

On April 24, 2018, the Associated Press reported that the Saudis got what it called a “sneak peak” at the flattering AMI magazine before it was even published. Pecker was known to have met at that time with Saudis at the Saudi embassy to the United States in Washington.

To what extent was the magazine part of a deal to grease the way for Pecker who, like Trump, wanted new business opportunities in Saudi Arabia? To what extent was the Trump administration involved in setting up those meetings? The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is known to have introduced Pecker to his pal, the Saudi prince.

Lots of questions. What we know may be just the tip of the iceberg, but that tip itself is pretty big. Merchants of smut who employ gangster tactics and methods are out there collecting dirt on whoever they feel it necessary to collect such dirt. Most people of course, unlike Bezos, don’t have the means to defend themselves. Unscrupulous outfits like AMI help despotic-minded people like Trump set up “news outlets” that spread lies disguised as news.

They defend the indefensible, up to and including the murder of journalists. They have stockpiled in their safes and lock boxes piles of other “information” they can use as weapons. They are, in short, a machine for churning out false information that fuels their criminal enterprise.

Worst of all, perhaps, that enterprise is largely centered at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.