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A new biography about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos claims that after the National Enquirer exposed his affair with TV personality Lauren Sánchez in 2019, the then-embattled big tech mogul purposefully tried to blame the outing of his behavior on Saudi Arabia.
It all started on Jan. 9th, 2019, when Bezos announced his divorce from his then-wife MacKenzie Bezos. Hours later that same day, the National Enquirer ran a bombshell story documenting his affair with Sanchez and claiming to be in possession of penis “selfies” that he’d sent her via text messages.
A month later, Bezos published a piece to Medium claiming that David Pecker, who at the time had been the CEO of the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media (AMI), was trying to extort him on behalf of then-President Donald Trump and the Saudi Arabian government.
“My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” he wrote.
“President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”
Report sheds light on Jeff Bezos racy texts scandal, throws wrench in media’s Trump narrative https://t.co/VjmdYKLCrV
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 19, 2019
Another month later on March 31st, Bezos’ head of security, “fixer” Gavin De Becker, published an op-ed for The Daily Beast suggesting Saudi Arabia had hacked his boss’s phone and was responsible for the texts and pics getting to the National Enquirer.
“Saudi Arabia attacks people in many ways, obviously, including through their elaborate social media program that uses sophisticated technology and paid surrogates to create artificially trending hashtags. … In October, the Saudi government unleashed its cyberarmy on Bezos (and later me). Their multi-pronged campaign included public calls for boycotts against Amazon.com and its Saudi subsidiary, Souq.com,” he wrote.
He further drew attention to the close relationship between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Pecker.
“Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details,” he added.
EXCLUSIVE: Bezos investigation finds the Saudis obtained his private data https://t.co/nHBMxCvgvq
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) March 30, 2019
It’s now known that what he’d said was only half true. Saudi Arabia did hack Bezos’ phone in 2018, as reported last year by The Guardian, but no evidence has emerged that the hack had anything to do with his texts and photos being leaked.
What’s new is the claim by journalist Brad Stone in his new biography, “Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire,” that Bezos had purposefully unleashed his “fixer” with this lie to distract from his behavior.
Bezos “relished how it shifted the focus away ‘from the more unsavory and complicated truth,'” the New York Post reported earlier this month, quoting from the biography.
However, Stone notes in the book that there was and still is no “conclusive evidence” that Saudi Arabia was involved with the National Enquirer’s story.
In fact, it’s now known as a fact that the texts and photos had been provided to the tabloid magazine by Sanchez’s own brother, Michael Sanchez, for a price of $200,000.
As to how he got it, Stone claims that his sister “frequently forwarded” Bezos’ text messages to him for reasons that remain unexplained.
“The sibling relationship was, to put it mildly, unusual,” Stone writes in the biography.
— Mitch Levy (@Mitch_Seattle) May 27, 2021
According to Stone, the very idea that the Saudis were somehow responsible for the leak was “only a fog of overlapping events, weak ties between disparate figures and more strange coincidences.”
“For Bezos and his advisors, though, who were still trying to positively spin the embarrassing events surrounding his divorce, such a cloud of uncertainty was at the very least distracting from the more unsavory and complicated truth,” he wrote.
Part of that truth is that the penis “selfie” allegedly wasn’t even of Bezos.
“[T]he infamous penis photo wasn’t among the images that Michael Sanchez handed over to the Enquirer — although he did display it during a Nov. 21, 2018, meeting with reporter Andrea Simpson after claiming he had an explicit selfie that Bezos sent to Sanchez’s sister,” according to the Post.
“With then-AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard and editor James Robertson ‘watching via FaceTime from New York and recording the transaction, Sanchez didn’t show them a picture of Bezos at all but an anonymous photograph of male genitalia that he had captured from the gay escort website Rent.men,’ according to the book.”
In an email to the Post, Sanchez’s own lawyer, Jonathan Jenkins, confirmed that this indeed true: “As FBI and Amazon investigators confirmed, Michael Sanchez never possessed any penis photos Mr. Bezos sent to Ms. Sanchez.”
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