While Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has yet to confirm it, a report emerged Tuesday that his personal cellphone was allegedly “hacked” in 2018 by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
The report has reignited media-peddled conspiracy theories that the scandalous text messages and photos published by National Enquirer last year that showed Bezos involved in an affair with a woman named Lauren Sanchez had been sold to the outlet by Saudia Arabia at the direction or behest of President Donald Trump.
According to anonymous sources who spoke with The Guardian, two years ago Bezos received a message on the WhatsApp cross-platform messaging application allegedly sent from the personal account of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman.
“The encrypted message from the number used by Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone of the world’s richest man, according to the results of a digital forensic analysis,” the outlet reported.
“This analysis found it ‘highly probable’ that the intrusion into the phone was triggered by an infected video file sent from the account of the Saudi heir to Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post.”
“Large amounts of data” were allegedly extracted from the phone within hours.
Months later on Jan. 9, 2019, Bezos and his then-wife suddenly issued a statement on Twitter announcing plans to divorce:
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) January 9, 2019
Exactly one day later, the National Enquirer published a “series of sleazy photos, X-rated selfies, and explicit texts” that proved Bezos was involved in an affair with Sanchez.
— Premiere Networks (@TheRadioSnitch) January 11, 2019
A month later on Feb. 7, Bezos published an essay accusing American Media, Inc., owner David Becker of trying to use the photos and text to extort and blackmail him.
“These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism,” he wrote.
“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”
He further suggested a link between his arch-nemesis, President Donald Trump, and the publication of his texts and photos by the National Enquirer.
“[T]he billionaire owner of Amazon and the Washington Post launched an investigation into how the tabloid obtained intimate information on his relationship with Sanchez. He alleges that AMI attempted to blackmail him into ceasing the inquiry,” Business Insider reported at the time.
“Bezos in his post suggests that AMI’s investigation may have been politically motivated and also points to a connection between Saudi Arabia and AMI. AMI’s owner, David Pecker, has close ties to President Donald Trump.”
The media reportedly ate this theory up, inspiring laughter and mockery from Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“Jeff Bezos is so tough that Donald Trump just can’t handle him. There is only room for one alpha bear in this town, so Trump is trying to take out Bezos Bear with a far-reaching secret conspiracy. Seriously? That’s what they are saying,” Tucker said at the time before playing a montage of media personalities insinuating exactly that.
A year later, the media appear to be conspiracy theorizing yet again.
“The extraordinary revelation that the future king of Saudi Arabia may have had a personal involvement in the targeting of the American founder of Amazon will send shockwaves from Wall Street to Silicon Valley,” The Guardian reported.
“The disclosure is likely to raise difficult questions for the kingdom about the circumstances around how US tabloid the National Enquirer came to publish intimate details about Bezos’s private life – including text messages – nine months later.”
Some outlets claim that Saudi Arabia isn’t to blame for the leak at all, but instead, point the finger at the brother of the mistress.
The Wall Street Journal, a conservative-leaning outlet, reported last March that AMI had obtained the photos and texts from Sanchez’s brother, Michael. The photos and texts were traded as part of a deal reportedly worth $200,000.
“Mr. Pecker approved the $200,000 deal with Mr. Sanchez that had been negotiated by American Media’s chief content officer, Mr. Howard; its general counsel for media, Cameron Stracher; and others, said people familiar with the contract,” the Journal confirmed. “The amount—higher than the company typically pays sources—reflected the significance American Media placed on Mr. Sanchez’s information.”
Report sheds light on Jeff Bezos racy texts scandal, throws wrench in media’s Trump narrative https://t.co/GXNe6x5qNf
— Baby It’s Code Outside ? (@sodagrrl) March 20, 2019
The Daily Beast obtained the same confirmation:
So, we are still 100% confident in our reporting from early last year that it was Michael Sanchez, Bezos’ mistresses’ brother, who leaked Bezos’ text messages to the National Enquirer https://t.co/qq4pcK33c8
Re this paragraph: pic.twitter.com/CwqVJf0G81
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) January 21, 2020
Saudi Arabia has for its part denied ever hacking Bezos’ phone.
“Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out,” the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.
Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.
— Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) January 22, 2020
Bezos meanwhile has refused to speak on the matter.
“Bezos chose to stay silent about the matter on Tuesday,” CNN’s Brian Stelter reported. “When [CNN senior media reporter] Oliver Darcy checked in following the report, Bezos declined to comment through a rep.”