National Enquirer Paid Brother of Jeff Bezos’ Girlfriend $200,000 for Explicit Photos: Report
Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez’s private text messages may have been leaked by someone in close contact with them — and for a lot of money.
Sanchez’s brother Michael was allegedly paid $200,000 by the National Enquirer in exchange for racy text messages between the news anchor, 49, and the Amazon CEO, 55, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal.
A spokesperson for American Media Inc., the Enquirer‘s parent company, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment. Michael, a Hollywood manager, did not immediately respond for comment.
In a February interview with Vanity Fair in which he spoke of his sister’s relationship to the billionaire, Michael denied leaking explicit photos of the couple but did not deny other involvement with the Enquirer’s story.
“I had nothing to do with the leak of the d— picks,” he said. “That’s the important thing. I never had access.”
Michael continued, “I’m not saying I didn’t do something. The truth will come out about my motivations and how much I believe in Jeff and Lauren’s love.”
“It’s a legendary romance that will blow your mind as to just how in love they are,” he added.
In a post on the website Medium posted in February, Bezos accused the National Enquirer and its owner American Media Inc. of attempting to blackmail and extort him after the story’s publication. He alleges they threatened to publish additional, more explicit photos of him and Sanchez if Bezos didn’t issue a statement saying he had no reason to believe the Enquirer report was politically motivated.
AMI has previously denied any political motive behind its story about Bezos and Sanchez, though its chairman David Pecker is a longtime ally of Donald Trump. Last fall, AMI agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in an investigation of its efforts to help hide negative stories about Trump. The President has regularly clashed with Bezos over his ownership of the Washington Post. Michael Sanchez is also a Trump supporter.
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The Enquirer published a months-long investigation into Bezos and his relationship with Sanchez in January shortly after Bezos announced his divorce from wife MacKenzie, 48, alleging the two had traveled to “exotic destinations on his $65 million private jet.” The tabloid’s report contained photographs and text messages that Bezos had allegedly sent to Sanchez.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, AMI said it believed “fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos” but that the company’s board had “convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims.”
Bezos also claimed Enquirer editor Dylan Howard sent an email to Singer giving a detailed description of intimate photos of Bezos and Sanchez that the publication had obtained. Bezos included the alleged email in his Medium post.
“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,” Bezos continued.
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He concluded, “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.”
Bezos—considered the world’s richest man with an estimated fortune of $137 billion—and MacKenzie announced they were separating in a joint statement in early January. Hours later, news emerged that the Amazon CEO was dating Sanchez. The news anchor is also divorcing her husband of 13 years, Hollywood agent Patrick Whitesell.