The Amazon AMZN, -1.62% founder went public on Thursday with extortion accusations against tabloid National Enquirer. In a blog post published on Medium, Bezos accused the publication’s parent company American Media Inc. (AMI) of threatening to publish a “naked selfie” and other compromising photos from his phone that he had shared privately with the woman he was having an affair with at the time. Bezos and his wife MacKenzie announced their divorce in January.
“Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten,” he said. “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”
Bezos claims the blackmail was in response to an investigation by the Washington Post, which he owns, into AMI for potential political motivations behind a previous National Enquirer exposé of his alleged affair. These include alleged ties to Saudi Arabia and President Donald Trump, who is a close personal friend of AMI chief executive officer David Pecker.
It still is not clear how the Bezos images were obtained. They could have been intercepted by hackers or third parties, provided voluntarily by a recipient, or stolen from cloud storage. The Bezos-hired investigator reportedly suspects a “government agency” may be responsible for intercepting the messages.