With Bill Cosby in prison, there’s only one celebrity whose sexual misbehavior would still surprise me, and that’s Barack Obama. If there were any #MeToo issues or infidelity in Obama’s past, don’t you know Hillary Clinton would have found them in 2008?
I wasn’t at all surprised, then, to learn that Jeff Bezos — the richest man in the world (“on paper,” as Sam Walton would certainly have added) — was cheating on his wife, nor did I care. Being a mere adulterer seems pretty tame these days. (In fact, the Republican Party now prefers its presidential nominee to be a serial adulterer and loses no enthusiasm if he also brags about being a sexual predator. There was a time when this surprised me.)
I was surprised — although I probably shouldn’t have been — that a man as smart and forward-thinking as Bezos was texting intimate pictures to his mistress without, it seems, thinking forward enough to realize that just isn’t smart.
I understand that “sexting” with an intimate partner is entirely different from the kind of creepy and criminal behavior that seemed to be some kind of sick obsession for former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner. I also assume that anyone who engages in an extramarital affair — as opposed to, say, just an afternoon tryst with a porn star one met hours earlier — has to invest some trust in his paramour. I get all that.
Still, it does seem like a billionaire, the kind of person who could reasonably expect to be hit up for hush money, would have to place an exceptionally high level of trust in his adulterous partner before sending her the kind of pictures that could come back to haunt him.
Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, doesn’t seem to have been planning to divorce his wife of 25 years until the National Enquirer prepared a story on his affair with a minor TV celebrity named Lauren Sanchez. Howard Kurtz, the veteran media reporter who currently plies his trade for Fox Business, reported last week that Bezos was, in fact, in damage control mode. He had authorized some associate to act as the “source” of a story about the possibility that he and Sanchez were headed for marriage that appeared in Us Weekly. That, like the National Enquirer, is a product of David Pecker’s American Media Inc.
Then came the email threatening to publish “below the belt” photos exchanged by Bezos and Sanchez, and Bezos quit playing nice. He accused AMI of extortion and suggested that AMI’s intrusion into his private life might be some kind of favor for Pecker’s friends Donald Trump and/or the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, for which AMI has published propaganda. Bezos’ Post employed Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist murdered in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, and is the aggressive hometown newspaper of the federal government of which Trump is chief executive.
I admire Bezos’ willingness to fight. As he said in the online post in which he blew the whistle on AMI, “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” But what he called “the personal cost and embarrassment” might have been avoided had he simply not engaged in such risky online behavior.
Here’s an idea: Could you just not do that?
Lauren Sanchez’s brother, Michael, is apparently another of President Trump’s friends, but he has denied leaking his sister’s text messages and photos. Instead, according to Kurtz’s reporting, they “may have come from several girlfriends, and an assistant, with whom Lauren shared the pictures and texts.”
If Bezos trusted his mistress to keep their private life private, his trust seems to have been misplaced. If Kurtz’s theory is right, Bezos blew up a 25-year marriage to a smart, lovely woman who loved him before he was rich for a slightly older model who was not at all trustworthy.
Karma, man. I’m betting Ms. Sanchez will not be the second Mrs. Bezos.
Before last month, Lauren Sanchez’s name and face were as unfamiliar to me as Jussie Smollett’s.
I ordered a small item from Amazon on Tuesday afternoon and it arrived at my house on Wednesday afternoon. Bezos is clearly stupid about some things, but his business is very, very smart.
Email Gwen Moritz, editor of Arkansas Business, at GMoritz@ABPG.com and follow her on Twitter at @gwenmoritz.