American Media has said it will “thoroughly investigate” claims by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos after he released a statement claiming that the company's tabloid, the National Enquirer, had blackmailed him.
In a statement on Friday, American Media responded to Bezos' claims and said it had acted lawfully.
“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos,” the company said in a statement.
It said that it had negotiated in “good faith to resolve all matters with him”.
“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,” it added.
Bezos had claimed in a statement on Medium, on Thursday, that the tabloid had threatened to publish intimate photos and messages between him and the woman he has been dating, Lauren Sanchez, unless he called off an investigation into how the paper obtained the messages.
The National Enquirer published a series of stories last month revealing Bezos' relationship with Sanchez after he announced he was divorcing wife MacKenzie Bezos after 25 years of marriage.
Bezos has hired investigators to find out how the outlet obtained the messages and intimate photos.
“Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” he said.
“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favours, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”
American Media's history with US President Donald Trump, a frequent critic of Bezos, has led to suggestions the outlets motivations were political.
The chief executive of American Media, David Pecker, is a long-term friend of President Trump, and also reportedly agreed to publish flattering stories of the President, while also buying and suppressing negative stories in a “catch and kill” arrangement.
The company avoided prosecution in December for paying off a woman to stop her revealing “damaging allegations” regarding Trump, after reaching an agreement with the US Justice Department to provide “substantial and important assistance” in Michael Cohen's investigation – Trump's former lawyer who was sentenced to three years in prison.