- A New York Times report shed new light on how the National Enquirer tabloid came to possess intimate messages between Jeff Bezos and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez.
- The report suggests that she sent them to her brother, Michael, who sold them to the National Enquirer. Bezos later said they were used to extort him.
- The Times cited four unnamed sources and a written contract to support its reporting.
- The paper said its reporting contradicted the widespread suggestion that Saudi Arabia may have leaked the messages after hacking Bezos’ phone.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Intimate messages between Jeff Bezos and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez came into the possession of the National Enquirer tabloid via her brother, The New York Times reported Thursday.
The Times said its reporting cast doubt on the notion that Saudi Arabia may have leaked the messages after hacking Bezos’ phone. A forensic report made public earlier this week concluded that his phone was mostly likely implanted with malware sent by a phone number belonging to the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
According to the newspaper, Sanchez sent the messages, including photos, to her brother, Michael, who received $200,000 upon signing a contract granting the Enquirer’s parent company exclusive rights to them.
The deal was the prelude to the story of Bezos’ relationship becoming public, which was followed by Bezos and his wife divorcing.
The Times said it learned how the photos were transmitted via four unnamed sources and a written contract between Michael Sanchez and American Media Inc., which publishes the Enquirer.
In exchanges with Business Insider last year, Michael Sanchez repeatedly denied sharing “penis photos” with AMI but evaded answering questions about whether he had leaked messages obtained by the National Enquirer.
The Enquirer has maintained that its source of the messages was Michael Sanchez, but Bezos hired a private investigator, Gavin de Becker, to dig deeper.
The strange saga took a twist this week after the forensic analysis of Bezos’ phone was revealed by The Guardian. It found that a number belonging to the Saudi crown prince most likely hacked into Bezos’ phone with malware in May 2018, eight months before the Enquirer piece.
It led to speculation that Saudi Arabia may have leaked the compromising messages to the Enquirer. But The Times’ reporting offered a more prosaic route – via Sanchez and her brother – and said a definitive Saudi connection to the Enquirer’s reporting had yet to be proved, though it acknowledged Saudi Arabia could have been helpful in other ways, such as tipping the Enquirer off about the affair.
In a statement to The Times, American Media Inc. called Michael Sanchez the “single source” for its reporting.
“The single source of our reporting has been well documented,” the company said. “In September of 2018, Michael Sanchez began providing all materials and information to our reporters.”
“Any suggestion that a third party was involved in or in any way influenced our reporting is false,” American Media Inc. said.