Ronan Farrow said Thursday that he and “at least one other prominent journalist” who had reported on the National Enquirer and President Trump received blackmail threats from the tabloid’s parent company, American Media Inc., over their work.
Farrow’s allegation came just hours after Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos published a remarkable public post on Medium accusing the National Enquirer of attempting to extort and blackmail him by threatening to publish intimate photos unless he stopped investigating the publication. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Last April, Farrow published an article in the New Yorker about the Enquirer’s “catch and kill” practice — in which stories are buried by paying off sources — that benefited Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
AMI did not immediately return a message from The Post about Farrow’s claim.
The allegations from Bezos and Farrow have since prompted other journalists and media outlets to come forward with claims that they, too, had been targeted by AMI for reporting on the Enquirer.
In response to Farrow, former Associated Press editor Ted Bridis tweeted a similar story.
Bridis claimed in a separate tweet referencing Bezos’s Medium post that AMI, the Enquirer and its lawyers “tried to shut down public interest reporting on tabloid’s work on behalf of Trump.”
The Daily Beast also reported that attorneys for AMI responded aggressively to two reports published last week that detailed Bezos’s investigation into the Enquirer. In its article about Thursday’s Medium post, the Daily Beast disclosed that during the process of that reporting, the publication “and a member of its staff were threatened by AMI’s attorneys.”
The Beast didn’t describe the threats in more detail, and AMI has yet to respond to their report. On Tuesday, The Post’s Marc Fisher, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison reported the following:
Documents obtained by The Post show that attorneys for American Media sought to persuade the Daily Beast not to publish its initial report suggesting that Trump’s allies may have been involved in the effort to expose the Bezos affair. According to a draft legal complaint, Enquirer attorneys threatened to sue the Daily Beast if it used any information provided by a former Enquirer executive who had been hired by the website.
This is not the first time journalists have said they brushes with the media company.
In a 2017 op-ed for The Post, “Morning Joe” hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough claimed that “top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked.”
“We ignored their desperate pleas,” the hosts wrote. The piece caused a media uproar.
They provided more details on their show that day. “We got a call that hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys,” Scarborough said. He claimed “three people at the very top of the administration” called him and told him “if you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike this story.”
Brzezinski added that the National Enquirer was “calling my children, they were calling close friends.”
Scarborough replied to the president that he had “texts for your top aides and phone records” to back up his claim.
The National Enquirer published an article about Brzezinski and Scarborough earlier that month with salacious details about their relationship, and that noted their contentious relationship with Trump. In a statement to CNN, the Enquirer said: “At the beginning of June we accurately reported a story that recounted the relationship between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the truth of which is not in dispute. At no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story. We have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions.”
On Thursday, Bezos wrote on Medium that he launched an investigation into the Enquirer after it published an article, complete with text messages, that revealed his relationship with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez. The investigation is an attempt to figure out how Bezos’s private information was leaked. In an interview with The Post earlier this week, Bezos’s security consultant Gavin de Becker said the Enquirer article came from a “politically motivated” leak intended to embarrass Bezos.
In his post, Bezos cited emails that he said were from AMI officials, including the company’s chief content officer Dylan Howard, and alleged that the tabloid wanted him and de Becker to make a false public statement that they “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
On Friday, American Media, LLC released a statement that it “believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos. Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him."
But the statement continues: "Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.”
Howard also played a notable role in the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal. In November 2017, Farrow published an article in the New Yorker referencing emails between Howard and Weinstein discussing efforts to dig up dirt on Rose McGowan, one of the first actresses to accuse the Hollywood producer of sexual assault.
"The day before The Times published its article [that] fall, Mr. Weinstein was planning to make his last defense. He wrote an urgent email to Mr. Howard, instructing him to meet outside the newspaper’s headquarters in Manhattan. American Media said that Mr. Howard did not show.
The emails shared by Bezos appeared to show Enquirer executives threatening to publish a series of revealing photos of him and Sanchez if the demands were not met.
Bezos and Farrow both said they did not bend to the alleged threats, but Bezos noted that his investigation revealed that many others had. On Medium, Bezos wrote that “numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake.”
The relationship between the Enquirer and Trump has been repeatedly scrutinized by the media, given the president’s long friendship with AMI chief executive David Pecker. Beyond Pecker’s directing the Enquirer to publish favorable articles about Trump in 2016, AMI admitted last year to paying $150,000 in hush money to Karen McDougal, a woman who allegedly had an affair with Trump, to prevent her story from “influencing the election.” Federal prosecutors in December announced an agreement with AMI that they would not prosecute the company for its role in attempting to skew the race in Trump’s favor if it cooperated and admitted to paying off the woman.
If Bezos’s allegations are accurate, AMI may be in violation of the non-prosecution agreement, which is in part contingent upon the company not committing any crimes, The Post reported Thursday.
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