Saudi foreign minister says his country had no involvement in Jeff Bezos extortion ‘soap opera’
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir on Sunday denied allegations that his country had any involvement in spying on or extorting Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, dismissing the story as a “soap opera.”
On Thursday, Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, penned an online article claiming that the National Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc. (AMI) had attempted to blackmail and extort him with “private photographs.”
He blamed the effort on chairman and CEO David Pecker and suggested it may have been part of an effort to retaliate for The Post’s coverage of its late columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally assassinated in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year by Saudi government employees.
In an interview taped Friday and aired Sunday on CBS on Face the Nation, host Margaret Brennan asked Al-Jubeir about explosive allegations. He dismissed them, and said they were like a “like a soap opera.”
“This is something between the two parties. We have nothing to do with it,” he said.
Pressed as to whether he could say no one from the Saudi government, its employees, or its contractors had had contact with Pecker or AMI, al Jubeir responded that the only involvement by Saudis was reading the right-wing tabloid.
“That’s as far as I’m aware. And I believe I would be aware. We have absolutely nothing to do with this. Maybe some of our citizens read The National Enquirer when they’re in the United States. Other citizens watch the soap opera unfold on television, but that’s it.”
In the same interview, he claimed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had nothing to do with the Khashoggi murder — a claim contradicted by United States intelligence.
Elkan Abramowitz, an attorney for Pecker, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that contrary to Bezos’ claims, AMI’s threat to publish the photos was “absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail.” The company said Friday it has launched an investigation, though it believes it “acted lawfully.”