Jeff Bezos sued for defamation by girlfriend's brother
Posted February 3, 2020 4:44 p.m. EST
Updated February 3, 2020 4:45 p.m. EST
CNN — The brother of the woman that Jeff Bezos is dating is suing the Amazon founder for defamation.
In a suit filed in state court in California on Friday Michael Sanchez, the brother of Lauren Sanchez, accused Bezos of falsely spreading the story that Sanchez was the source of nude photos of Bezos that the National Enquirer claimed to have, but which it did not publish. The suit also names Gavin de Becker, a security consultant hired by Bezos, and ten others identified as "john doe" as defendants.
"Defendants falsely stated that Mr. Sanchez was the source of graphic, nude photographs of Mr. Bezos," according to the suit. "They additionally peddled rumors to reporters that Mr. Sanchez was involved in a conservative conspiracy with high-profile political operatives, including Roger Stone and Carter Page, and the Saudi government to take down Mr. Bezos. These false statements have caused substantial and continuing harm to Mr. Sanchez, including to his professional reputation and his relationships with family members and others."
Attorneys for Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday, nor did de Becker's office or the public relations department of Amazon.
The attorney for Michael Sanchez said that the suit speaks for itself.
The Enquirer published a story last January about the affair between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, a former anchor for Fox's local station in Los Angeles, hours after Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos announced that they were getting divorced.
Bezos responded with a blog post on Medium in which he accused executives from American Media Inc., the publisher of the Enquirer, of trying to blackmail and extort him with the photos that it claimed to have. The National Enquirer denied blackmailing Bezos.
Michael Sanchez does admit to working with AMI ahead of the Enquirer's story about the affair, but he said it was only to trying to manage the story and soften how his sister would be portrayed. He said he did so in his role as her manager as well as a family member.
"Sanchez entered into a confidential deal to cooperate strategically with AMI..., with whom Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Sanchez had cooperated, without money changing hands, for over twenty years," according to the suit. "With AMI stating it had multiple sources claiming that Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez were having an affair, Mr. Sanchez agreed to corroborate the existence of the relationship under conditions that would help Mr. Sanchez manage the timing of the story and the way in which the affair was portrayed."
But Sanchez said he never had the nude pictures of Bezos. He said he was shocked to find out that the probe into the leaking of the photos was falling on him. "He immediately reached out to Mr. de Becker, Ms. Sanchez and Mr. Bezos to remove any remaining doubt that he might have been the source or part of a conservative-Saudi conspiracy to harm Mr. Bezos. His pleas fell on deaf ears," according to the complaint. The Saudis have denied involvement.
According to the suit, Michael Sanchez's home was searched by the FBI as a result of the allegations that Bezos and de Becker made against him.
The Daily Beast and the Associated Press reported last February that Sanchez was the initial tipster. CNN Business also confirmed with two sources at the time that he was the person who tipped off the National Enquirer to Lauren Sanchez's and Bezos' relationship. At the time, Michael Sanchez declined to provide CNN Business an on-the-record comment about whether he was the leaker. He previously denied to The Washington Post playing a role in leaking details about the relationship between Bezos and his sister.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that US prosecutors obtained evidence that indicates Lauren Sanchez sent her brother text messages that were later published in the National Enquirer. The texts sent from Lauren Sanchez's phone to her brother Michael in 2018 include a flirtatious message from Bezos and a shirtless photo of him, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The suit requests unspecified damages.