In the Matter of Bezos and The National Enquirer

I was asked by a leading PR industry trade magazine to share some thoughts on Jeff Bezos’s audacious PR gambit aimed at the blackmail-happy National Enquirer and its Trump puppet owner David Pecker.

I was hardly alone in acknowledging the fearless guile of the billionaire owner of Amazon and The Washington Post. It prompted my tweet of a line lifted from the inimitable Kara Swisher’s opinion piece in The New York Times (which she in turn retweeted):

The PR trade asked me this: “…I was hoping either you or a colleague could provide comment on Jeff Bezos’ Medium post from last night. The consensus appears to be a win for a him and a loss for Pecker.”

I responded as follows:

Yes. A surprising big win for Jeff Bezos. Who’d have thought in the age of #MeToo, a married billionaire who texted sexplicit images of himself to a young woman with whom he’s having an extramarital affair would emerge as a victim and hero? (Anthony Weiner, eat your heart out.) 

This “win” likely stems from the media punditry’s instant embrace and clamorous amplification of that narrative and these three mitigating factors:

— A healthy disdain for Messrs. Pecker and Trump, personally

— An admiration for the Bezos-owned Washington Post, and

— A natural abhorrence for The Enquirer’s mendacious brand of journalism.

Mr. Bezos’s PR consiglieres should also be commended for recognizing the value of a pre-emptive attack on The Enquirer, even though it produced the NYPost cover story headline “Bezos Exposes Pecker.”  (see photo above.) They leveraged Mr. Bezos’s (bully) pulpit to wrest control of the story narrative. 

Finally, I was pleased to see Mr. Bezos’s use of Twitter, a rare occurrence for him, linking to Ev Williams’ platform Medium, which played host to the jaw-dropping Bezos post.

Based on AMI’s statement, the Enquirer parent is now clearly on the defensive, if not running scared.

We haven’t heard the end of this saga now that the Special Counsel’s office is assessing whether AMI breached its plea deal that granted Pecker & co. immunity. The prospect is causing all kinds of consternation at the tabloid and prompted yet another statement from AMI’s lawyers “AMI lawyer: National Enquirer’s emails to Jeff Bezos ‘absolutely’ weren’t blackmail” .

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