"The World's Richest Man Caught Cheating!" screams a National Enquirer special edition devoting 11 lurid pages to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and his alleged marriage-wrecking affair. You can loathe the tabloids for their flagrant disregard of facts, their rampant dishonesty, flights of fantasy and mean-spirited personal attacks, but one thing they undeniably do well is stalk celebrities.
And while it's highly debatable whether such intrusion into the deeply personal life of a private businessman is morally or journalistically acceptable, there is no denying that it was the impending publication of a special edition of the Enquirer revelations that prompted Bezos to issue a public statement confessing his marital split.
"The cheating photos that ended his marriage," promises the Enquirer cover. "Text sex and wild romps on his private jet! How he stole another mogul's wife!" Just in case you've been living in a sensory depravation tank for the past week or been locked in a pitch-black bathroom for a month to win a $100,000 bet, Bezos and his novelist wife of 25 years MacKenzie have announced their separation after the Enquirer claimed that he has been cheating with TV reporter Lauren Sanchez, who happens to be married to one of Hollywood's most powerful agents, Patrick Whitesell.
The Enquirer boasts that it spent four months pursuing Bezos's secret romantic trysts across America, traversing five states and 40,000 miles, and claims to have the photos to prove it. There's Jeff and Lauren arriving in Los Angeles on October 18, 2018 after a "Miami getaway." There they are boarding his private Gulfstream jet in Boston on October 29. They're there again exiting his jet in Santa Monica, California and dining at a nearby restaurant on October 30, 2018.
Enquirer photographers were alongside when the couple arrived at Sanchez's Santa Monica home on November 26, and watched Bezos depart at 1pm the following day. Three days later the Enquirer was there yet again as Bezos and Sanchez enjoyed dinner at a nearby restaurant, and followed them to the Beverly Hills Hotel where Bezos had rented a private bungalow.
The Enquirer boasts that its photographers caught the lovebirds "doing the dirty on their unsuspecting spouses together no fewer than six times in 14 days."
But how "dirty" dd the couple actually get? In fact, the "photos that ended his marriage" all show Bezos and Sanchez walking, dining or driving together without the slightest show of affection. After its four-month investigation there isn't a single photo of Bezos and Sanchez so much as holding hands, let alone kissing or hugging.
Their romantic dinner in Santa Monica on October 30? They were joined by two friends, so it was hardly a secret romantic tryst. That night Sanchez reportedly stayed at Bezos's Los Angeles mansion and departed around noon the following day – but the Enquirer has no way of knowing whether Sanchez actually shared her host's bed or stayed in one of his many guest bedrooms.
"Explosive photos" of their arrival in Bezos's jet at California's Burbank airport on October 18 are billed as "plane raunchy!" But in fact these snaps merely show Bezos and Sanchez standing near one another, barely touching, with Sanchez seemingly focused on her phone, not on Bezos. Another secret liaison? Not exactly, since they were accompanied by Sanchez's sister and assistant.
On October 27, when Bezos and Sanchez stayed at the Intercontinental hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, the Enquirer admits that she stayed in a separate room, and only saw them both leaving the hotel the following day – without any way of knowing what went on behind closed doors. The Enquirer has never needed facts to leap to conclusions, so it was an easy leap of faith for them to link the dots and decide that Bezos and Sanchez were lovers.
Flying in his private jet together? They must have joined the "Mile High Club," the Enquirer assumes. Having dinner together with two friends? They must be playing "footsie," says the Enquirer. Armed with a plethora of suspicion and supposition, the Enquirer confronted Bezos with its allegations on January 7 – and Bezos blinked.
Two days later he issued a public statement announcing the break-up of his marriage, and the assurance that he and estranged wife MacKenzie remains friends. But he made no mention of Sanchez, and there is still no proof – only circumstantial evidence – linking the two romantically, though it seems highly likely that the Enquirer finally got one right.
Was it guilt that pushed Bezos to confess, even though he has not admitted any affair? The clincher for the Enquirer seems to have been a series of gushing and sexually-charged text messages allegedly sent by Bezos to Sanchez – and yet their provenance and content seem dubious.
"I want to breathe you in," he allegedly wrote. "I want to hold you tight . . . I want to kiss your lips . . . I love you . . . I want to kiss you right now and tuck you in slowly and gently." Bezos reportedly sent Sanchez photos of himself posing shirtless wearing only a towel, along with "a below-the-belt selfie too explicit to describe in detail." And that's what sets alarm bells ringing, because the Enquirer has never found anything too explicit to describe. In fact, they rejoice in publishing such photos, albeit with some discreet pixilation.
The iPhone displays of Bezos's text messages are not actual photographs, and a discreetly hidden small-print caption reveals they are only "text re-creations." How much confidence does the Enquirer have in the accuracy of its text message trove? Rather than quote them elsewhere in its 11-page exposé as proof of Bezos' supposed love for Sanchez, the leading article states: "We can reveal Bezos has been telling a confidant that he's 'in love' with Sanchez, that his 'heart never felt safer . . .'"
Why would the Enquirer choose to quote an unnamed source when it supposedly has Bezos's own declarations of love from his text messages? Because they don't believe them, or seriously doubt the texts' accuracy. Not that the Enquirer is lacking for named sources: it brings us an interview with Bezos' aunt, Kathy Jorgensen, who assures us that abandoned wife MacKenzie Bezos "will take him to the cleaners . . . She knows the dirtiest secrets about him . . . they'll probably settle and add in the agreement she can never discuss what she knows about Jeff."
Would it be churlish to point out that Bezos was two years old when his parents split and he was raised by his mother, so that his father's side of the family – including aunt Kathy Jorgensen – has not seen Bezos in 53 years, since he was just out of diapers? And that's what qualifies as a great source in the Enquirer universe.
The Enquirer claims that Bezos, when confronted with its suspicions, "mused to one source: 'Could I buy the story from them?'" From past experience, it's perhaps surprising that the Enquirer wouldn't have leaped at this opportunity to cash in, while maintaining leverage over the world's wealthiest – and most influential – men. Ultimately, the Enquirer ended its "four-month investigation" – which only appears to have covered a period of less than three months – with a collection of photos showing Bezos and Sanchez together, often with other friends and colleagues accompanying them, but nothing catching them in flagrante delicto.
Circumstantial evidence was enough to push Bezos to confess the end of his marriage – but will he admit an affair with Sanchez? "Enquiring minds are first to know the truth," concludes the rag's investigation. Only time will tell.