Feb. 11 (UPI) — The attorney for the head of the National Enquirer’s parent company denied Jeff Bezos‘ allegations that the tabloid attempted to extort and blackmail him with intimate photos of him and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez.
Elkan Abramowitz, who represents American Media, Inc. CEO David Pecker, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday that the tabloid’s practices were “journalism” and not extortion, as it had previously covered Bezos’ and Sanchez’s affair.
“It absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail,” said Abramowitz. “The story was given to The National Enquirer by a reliable source that had been giving information to the National Enquirer for seven years prior to this story. It was a source that was well-known to both Mr. Bezos and Miss Sanchez.”
Abramowitz added that the discussions between the National Enquirer and Bezos regarding publishing further stories about the affair, including the intimate photos, is a normal journalistic practice.
“The story was already published. Is it journalism not to print a story three times? The story was out there,” he said.
Abramowitz’s comments came after a report on Friday that federal prosecutors in New York are reviewing whether AMI committed any crimes in the National Enquirer’s pursuit of the story.
Bezos published a blog post stating that Pecker threatened to publish the photos unless he and his investigator, Gavin de Becker, made a statement that they believed the tabloid’s coverage of him was not politically motivated, as the Bezos-owned Washington Post has been a longtime critic of President Donald Trump.
“I think both Bezos and AMI had interests in resolving their differences. Bezos didn’t want another story written about him or those pictures published, AMI did not want to have the libel against them that this was inspired by the White House, inspired by Saudi Arabia or inspired by The Washington Post. It had nothing to do with it. It was a usual story that — that The National Enquirer gets from reliable sources,” Abramowitz said Sunday.
When questioned about a Daily Beast report that named Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, as the source, Abramowitz said he could not reveal the name of the source but could say “it’s not Saudi Arabia, it’s not President Trump, it’s not Roger Stone.”
“I can’t discuss who the source was. It’s confidential within AMI, so I’m not going to answer who the source was. It was somebody close to both Bezos and Miss Sanchez,” he said.
AMI stood by its actions in a statement on Friday, but said it would investigate the accusations by Bezos, ABC News reported.
“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos,” the company said. “Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.”