This is why Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and The Nationwide Enquirer’s mum or dad firm are in a public feud over allegations of blackmail and extortion.
A salacious tabloid newspaper with a conservative proprietor and a historical past of unscrupulous strategies finds itself beneath the microscope, forcing a nationwide reckoning in regards to the intersection of journalism, politics, movie star and sleaze.
That is what occurred seven years in the past at Rupert Murdoch’s Information of the World in London. The paper folded in 2012 amid a cellphone hacking scandal that turned U.Okay.’s media and political institution the other way up.
However it may additionally describe – minus the cellphone hacking – the controversy engulfing the Nationwide Enquirer.
The Florida-based grocery store tabloid has blended movie star gossip, true crime and conspiracy theories for many years. However its affiliation with President Donald Trump – and its new assaults on Amazon founder and Washington Publish proprietor Jeff Bezos – is shining a harsh mild on the underbelly of tabloid journalism.
And now a authorized combat with the world’s richest particular person may show devastating for a corporation that has confronted monetary challenges, together with substantial debt and the lack of income from print gross sales confronting even mainstream newspapers.
In a weblog put up Thursday, Bezos alleged that lawyers for the National Enquirer's parent company – American Media Inc. – tried to blackmail him into getting the Washington Publish to drop its investigation into the corporate’s ties to Trump.
Final month, the Nationwide Enquirer printed pictures exhibiting Bezos concerned in an extramarital affair with a former information anchor. Previous to that, Bezos had introduced that he and his spouse have been divorcing.
In emails launched by Bezos, the Nationwide Enquirer informed him that it had much more compromising pictures, together with what it euphemistically described as a “below-the-belt selfie.” It threatened to publish the pictures except Bezos publicly acknowledged that he has “no data or foundation for suggesting that AM’s protection was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
AMI has denied any wrongdoing, saying it “believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos.” In an announcement Friday, the corporate mentioned its board of administrators would open an investigation into the allegations.
The corporate may have prison or civil legal responsibility if it was complicit in illegally acquiring the pictures, mentioned Michael Conway, a lawyer who has represented media organizations such because the New York Instances and ABC, and now teaches at Northwestern College’s Medill College of Journalism.
“The important thing query right here is, did American Media in any method encourage, facilitate or in any other case make an effort to get Bezos’ photos and emails, which we don’t know,” Conway mentioned. “In the event that they did, then they’re complicit within the crime and the First Modification doesn’t defend them from publishing it.”
But when the fabric was obtained by another person after which given to American Media, the corporate might be able to publish it, Conway mentioned. It’s the identical motive that information organizations weren’t answerable for publishing the Democratic Nationwide Committee’s hacked emails throughout the 2016 marketing campaign.
The Nationwide Enquirer is just one of AMI’s manufacturers, however is its oldest and most iconic.
The Related Press reported that the Nationwide Enquirer’s circulation fell 18 % final 12 months, to 265,000 weekly. However that is only a small fraction of the two.3 million circulation AMI claims.
Different publications embrace way of life titles like Males’s Journal and Muscle and Health. together with movie star fare like In Contact, Us Weekly and Cleaning soap Opera Digest.
Final 12 months, it purchased up much more publications to type a near-monopoly of the grocery store aisle. These included Life & Fashion, Nearer. J-14 and GirlsWorld.
The corporate is privately owned and never traded publicly, so its financials are intently held. However simply final month, the corporate introduced that it refinanced $460 million value of debt.
For instance, Gawker declared chapter in 2016 after former skilled wrestler Hulk Hogan sued the web gossip website for invasion of privateness after it printed a intercourse tape. Hogan won a $115 million judgment.
Murdoch, whose media empire contains the Wall Avenue Journal and Fox Information, closed the Information of the World in 2011 after a number of newspapers staffers have been arrested within the cellphone hacking scandal. Whereas the newspaper illegally obtained voicemails of athletes, celebrities and 1000’s of others, it was the hacking of a 13-year-old homicide sufferer that the majority infected the British public.
The Bezos battle is simply one of many controversies surrounding the tabloid group:
► The Nationwide Enquirer’s editor, Dylan Howard, reportedly colluded with movie producer Harvey Weinstein to discredit ladies accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment and rape.
► Within the run-up to the 2016 election, the Nationwide Enquirer printed a string of doubtful tales about Hillary Clinton’s well being, intercourse life and involvement in numerous conspiracies.
► AMI admitted paying a $150,000 to former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal as a part of a “catch-and-kill” operation to silence her claims to have had an affair with Trump.
Final 12 months, AMI agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York, who have been investigating Trump’s funds to ladies via long-time private lawyer Michael Cohen, who can also be cooperating. As a part of that settlement, AMI agreed to not commit additional crimes, heightening the stakes for the corporate if it is discovered to have acted illegally within the Bezos affair.
AMI Chairman and CEO David Pecker has shut ties to Trump, and the New York Instances and the Related Press have reported that Pecker has used that entry to leverage enterprise offers in Saudi Arabia. Bezos mentioned it is the Saudi connection that “appears to hit a very delicate nerve.”
Reporter Christal Hayes contributed from Washington.
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