WASHINGTON — The White House declined to address the brewing controversy between American Media Inc. (AMI) and Jeff Bezos on Friday, one day after the Amazon CEO accused the tabloid publisher of attempting to extort him.
“We’re not going to get into a conversation about something between Jeff Bezos and a tabloid magazine,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters outside the West Wing.
Gidley said he was unaware if Trump was aware of the situation.
On Thursday, Bezos published a blog post alleging that AMI, the home of the National Enquirer headed by longtime Trump ally David Pecker, attempted to blackmail him.
Bezos had ordered a private investigation after the National Enquirer published salacious texts between him and Lauren Sanchez in January. Both Bezos and Sanchez are married.
In Thursday’s post, Bezos shared an email from Dylan Howard, AMI’s chief content officer, stating that the publication had received leaked photos of the Amazon CEO, including a picture of his genitals.
Jon Fine, the deputy general counsel for AMI, sent an additional email to Bezos’ team proposing to withhold the photos in exchange for Bezos publicly stating that AMI’s initial story about his texts was not politically motivated.
President Donald Trump’s ties to Pecker is in the public record.
As part of an immunity deal in a case surrounding campaign finance violations carried out by Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, Pecker acknowledged in December that the company worked on behalf of the then-candidate during the 2016 campaign to purchase the rights to stories from a Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Trump.
Trump has been a fierce critic of Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, frequently claiming without evidence that the CEO has used the paper as a tool to attack him.
Gidley said Friday he did not know when Trump and Pecker last spoke.
On Friday, AMI released an unsigned statement claiming that they were pursuing “good faith” negotiations.
The statement added that the company will nevertheless conduct an investigation into Bezos’ claims and take appropriate action.