Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday accused the owner of the US newspaper National Enquirer of blackmailing him with threats to publish "intimate photos."
In a blog post, Bezos claimed that "top people" at the Enquirer had approached him with a deal, asking him to stop investigating how it had obtained his personal text messages, which were published in a story several weeks ago.
The Amazon chief said he was also asked to make a public statement announcing that the Enquirer's reporting on him was not politically motivated. In return, he said the tabloid promised not to publish "intimate photos" he had sent to his mistress.
The National Enquirer's parent company and publisher, American Media Inc (AMI), has said it would "thoroughly investigate" Bezos' claims of blackmail and take any necessary action. It also defended its reporting, saying "it believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos."
AMI, whose top boss David Pecker is close to US President Donald Trump, last month reported Bezos had an extramarital affair with former news anchor and entertainment reporter Lauren Sanchez.
"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," Bezos wrote in the blog post titled "No thank you, Mr. Pecker" published on Medium. "I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out."
Read more: Is Trump's criticism of Amazon justified?
Alleged blackmail followed investigation
Bezos and his wife announced in January that they were getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage, following a period of "loving exploration" and trial separation.
That same day, the National Enquirer advertised it was publishing alleged intimate text messages between Bezos and Sanchez.
Bezos then opened an investigation into the leak led by Gavin de Becker, a longtime security consultant and former appointee of US President Ronald Reagan.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, De Becker said "strong leads point to political motives" and that he was interested in Lauren Sanchez's brother Michael, a vocal supporter of Trump with links to his inner circle, as a possible perpetrator.
Bezos, Amazon and the newspaper that he privately owns, the Washington Post, have all been targets of attacks on Twitter by Trump.
The Washington Post publishes many articles critical of Trump, and the president has said the paper acts as Amazon's "chief lobbyist."
Trump called Bezos "Jeff Bozo" in a tweet last month about the National Enquirer's coverage of his divorce.
"It's unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy," Bezos wrote. "President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets."
Bezos's blog mentioned AMI and Pecker's previous cooperation with Trump, including payments made to suppress negative stories, currently under investigation by federal prosecutors.
It also highlighted the publisher's links to Saudi Arabia — whose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accused of ordering the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.