The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has denied that it had anything to do with the leaking of intimate photographs and texts of the Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos to the National Enquirer, as the row between the world’s richest man and the tabloid rumbles on.
The Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, took to the TV political shows in the US on Sunday, denying the kingdom had played a role in the publication of lurid texts between Bezos and his extramarital girlfriend, Lauren Sánchez. “This is something between the two parties, we have nothing to do with it,” he told CBS’ Face the Nation, adding: “It sounds to me like a soap opera.”
That a senior Saudi government minister felt it necessary to deny suggestions that the kingdom had somehow been involved in the publication of the photos by the most notorious supermarket tabloid in America is an indication of how incendiary the Bezos allegations have been. The Amazon CEO released them in an explosive blogpost on Thursday in which he accused AMI of “extortion and blackmail”.
In the post, Bezos revealed correspondence in which AMI had threatened to release “d*ck picks” unless he immediately called off an investigation into the source of the initial leak and retracted any claim that AMI’s coverage was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces”.
Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, went on to note the close relationship between AMI and Donald Trump, and between the media company and the Saudi government. He wrote that what he called the “Saudi angle” hit a “particularly sensitive nerve” with David Pecker, AMI’s CEO.
Pecker’s lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, joined the Saudi foreign minister on the denial circuit on Sunday when he went on ABC’s This Week to claim that the National Enquirer had obtained the Bezos material through a journalistic rather than political source. AMI’s “negotiation” with the Amazon chief had nothing to do with extortion and blackmail.
Abramowitz said: “AMI didn’t want to have the libel against them that this was inspired by the White House or Saudi Arabia or Washington Post. It had nothing to do with it. They got the story from a usual source.”
Abramowitz would not disclose the identity of the source, though he did say the individual had been giving stories to the Enquirer for the past seven years and was “well known to Bezos and Sánchez”. The Daily Beast reported that Bezos’ leak inquiry had taken interest in Sánchez’s brother, Michael Sánchez, who is an associate of Roger Stone and others in the Trump circle.
The spat between Bezos, AMI and Saudi Arabia is further complicated by Saudi’s role in the killing in October of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post, under Bezos’ ownership, has aggressively reported evidence that the murder was ordered personally by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
The overwhelming majority of the US political and intelligence establishment, including the CIA and leading members of Congress of both main parties, have concluded that Bin Salman was responsible for the killing. But Trump and key members of his administration have consistently disputed the evidence, preferring to stand by the crown prince.
The White House refused to meet a deadline last Friday in which the president was supposed to state categorically whether Bin Salman was behind the murder. The deadline was missed even though Trump was legally obliged to honor it.