Jeff Bezos (usually dubbed “the world’s richest man” in any first sentence) is at war with the National Enquirer.

The Amazon founder and owner of The Washington Post yesterday published a blogpost in which he described how he had received an email, apparently from representatives of American Media Inc (AMI, the parent company of the Enquirer), threatening to publish “intimate photos” of him and his partner, Lauren Sanchez.

The email appeared to suggest that the images would not see the light of day if Bezos agreed to halt investigations into AMI.

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Bezos had previously charged Gavin de Becker, the security specialist, with an inquiry into the Enquirer – focusing on how it had gained foreknowledge of Bezos’s spilt from his wife, and the existence of a relationship with Sanchez. De Becker had seemingly reached the conclusion that the Enquirer’s coverage was politically motivated, and had said so in public. That upset AIM so much that it pulled out what it believed to be a trump card – only to see the card waved around publicly by Bezos himself.

Rows between rich men aren’t new. Media proprietors in particular have had some remarkable spats over the years. Bezos takes huge pride in his ownership of The Washington Post and no doubt despairs at what the Enquirer passes off as journalism.

Disputes that revolve around powerful men’s penises are also depressingly commonplace. Quite why it is that so many chaps think it’s a great idea to take pictures of their, well, little chaps, is baffling – not least when those images so often seem to end up all over the internet or the papers.

What marks out this fight though is the politics.

On publication of the blog post, The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow tweeted that he too had been subject to “stop digging or we’ll ruin you” style threats from AMI – as, he claimed, had another prominent journalist.  

American Media Inc worked with the president’s campaign during his White House run to bury a Playboy model’s account of her affair with Donald Trump – at a cost of $150,000. There have been other Trump-related stories bought and spiked too.

The president is old pals with David Pecker, AMI’s CEO, who gained immunity from prosecution by cooperating with the investigation into Michael Cohen. At the time, some wondered whether that cooperation would open a wound between Pecker and Trump. In fact, it may be that keeping Pecker and the Enquirer out of trouble was more important than whatever might happen to Cohen.

Meanwhile, Trump has made no secret of his distaste for Bezos’s Washington Post – part of the “failing fake news media” that is on the receiving end of so much presidential angst. Indeed, the rift between Trump and America’s established journalistic outlets shows no sign of healing – and the row between Bezos and AMI appears likely to make matters worse.

Of course, if it really is doing the bidding of the White House, then it would pay to take the Enquirer a little more seriously than much of its content would suggest. If it is a political power player beyond simply covering up presidential affairs, we should take note.  

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But a curiosity remains. Given the well-known history between Pecker and Trump, why would AMI be all that bothered by de Becker – who can, like Bezos, easily be portrayed as part of the “establishment swamp” – accusing the company of being “politically motivated”? Even if the Enquirer was working hand-in-glove with Trump, would its readers (largely Trump’s own base or the apolitical) actually care?

On the face of it, an offer not to turn over Bezos for fear of being cast as too close to the president makes little sense. Which makes you wonder what AMI is really worried about.

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