The National Enquirer picked a blackmail fight with Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos this week, and apparently the Trump-leaning tabloid and its parent company, American Media Inc., are well known for dirty deeds done extremely expensively.
It may have shocked the world when the publisher of the National Enquirer allegedly tried to use nude pictures to coerce Jeff Bezos. But it came as no surprise to three veterans of the Enquirer’sparent company, American Media Inc.
“The threats, the blackmail, that’s their business model,” one former National Enquirer staffer told The Daily Beast.
That model burst out into public view on Thursday night when Bezos—the world’s richest man, the founder of Amazon, and the owner of the Washington Post—published emails from AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard that threatened the release of a “dick p*ck” if the Post didn’t relent in its investigation of AMI.
It was a familiar moment to Paul Barresi, a private investigator who spent years working on jobs for AMI and other tabloids. “The National Enquirer had some people who would go to a celebrity and say, ‘unless you give in to a one-on-one interview that would amount to a fluff piece with us, we’re going to report XYZ,” he said. “The celebrity would then acquiesce to their demand.”
“The nice way of calling it was quid pro quo, but really it was blackmail,” Barresi said. “I know that the same methodology is practiced today,” he added. “Obviously it's practiced, because they did it” to Bezos.
And Daniel “Danno” Hanks, who said he worked as an on-contract investigator for the Enquirer “off and on” for 40 years, used the phrase “war of blackmail” to describe the AMI empire’s ethos.
“I’ve known this newspaper’s tactics for years, and I’d rather the truth be told,” Hanks stressed.
“The Enquirer had a list of which attorneys worked for which celebrities, and if someone approached [the tabloid] for a story, they would approach the attorneys and say, ‘Make us a better offer,’” Hanks said.
Hanks, who was recently released from prison for involvement in a gambling and drug organization (Hanks claims he was duped into it), added that those Hollywood or celebrity lawyers often asked Enquirer investigators to do investigative work and “trash runs” for them.
“They would have a particular name, and we would track that person down, and once we did that information would be turned over to [the celebrity’s] lawyer,” he said.
AMI did not respond to a request to comment for this story, but the company said in a statement on Friday that it “believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos.” The company has not been prosecuted for any crimes related to the blackmail claims made by its former investigators.
However, the supermarket tabloid company’s bag of dirty tricks also is well-chronicled and includes catch-and-kill operation: paying for an exclusive interview only to bury it, as a favor to an ally or after using the dirt to convince a celebrity to play ball with them.
There's a very good chance that David Pecker and friends are going to get a visit from the Feds over this as AMI is not in full panic mode.
The National Enquirer’s alleged attempt to blackmail Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with intimate photos could get the tabloid’s parent company and top editors in deep legal trouble and reopen them to prosecution for paying hush money to a Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump.
Federal prosecutors are looking at whether the Enquirer’s feud with Bezos violated a cooperation and non-prosecution agreement that recently spared the gossip sheet from charges in the hush-money case, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Friday.
The clash between the world’s richest man and America’s most aggressive supermarket tabloid spilled into public view late Thursday when Bezos accused it of threatening to print photos of him and the woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
He said the Enquirer made two demands: Stop investigating how the publication recently obtained private messages that Bezos and his girlfriend had exchanged. And publicly declare that the Enquirer’s coverage of Bezos was not politically motivated.
Enquirer owner American Media Inc. said Friday that its board of directors ordered a prompt and thorough investigation and will take “whatever appropriate action is necessary.” Earlier in the day, the company said it “acted lawfully” while reporting the story and engaged in “good-faith negotiations” with Bezos.