Commentary

Book About Bezos Vindicates Reporting By 'National Enquirer'

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the former editor of the National Enquirer. It has been corrected in this version.

"Amazon Unbound," a new book about CEO Jeff Bezos by reporter Brad Stone, includes a chapter about what happened after the National Enquirer reported on Bezos' affair with a former TV news anchor. The book portrays Bezos as triumphant in the aftermath of the tabloid's report, though he resorted to spinning a fantasy that would make a QAnon conspiracist blush.

As excerpted by Bloomberg Businessweek with the unfortunate headline, "The Untold Story of How Jeff Bezos Beat the Tabloids," Stone credits Bezos for outsmarting the Enquirer by "only slightly bruising the facts in the process."

That's a nice way of saying Bezos wasn't completely truthful when he suggested in a blog post that his ownership of The Washington Post made him a target of the Trump administration and the government of Saudi Arabia. Without ever disputing the Enquirer on facts, Bezos portrayed himself as a victim of a blackmail attempt by former editor Dylan Howard. That claim led the Department of Justice to open an investigation of Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. (AMI) that was later dropped.
The problem with Bezos' theory is that he likely was aware the Enquirer's source for his leaked phone messages wasn't the Saudis. A week before Bezos published his blog, The Daily Beast reported his girlfriend's brother, a celebrity press agent, had been identified as a possible culprit. Additional reporting and court testimony later confirmed the brother was the Enquirer's source.
It's not clear if Bezos ever confronted his girlfriend about whether she shared those personal texts with her brother, as Stone reports she did.
In describing his ownership of WaPo as a "complexifier" that made him the target of a political hit job, Bezos sought to turn himself into a hapless victim and champion of press freedom.
“This noble sentiment, of course, had little to do with his extramarital relationship, or the scheming of his girlfriend’s brother, or the desperate attempts of AMI to escape a cloud of political suspicion," Stone writes. "It was, in other words, a public-relations masterstroke.”
I don't agree with assessment, considering it describes an owner of a major newspaper who spun an unsubstantiated yarn to deflect attention from his personal embarrassment.

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