Read: Saturday Night Live’s confusing celebration of Jeff Bezos
Then, a few hours later, in barges the National Enquirer, asserting that Bezos had a long-running affair with Lauren Sanchez, which they knew because they tailed them in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, five-star-hotel hideaways, intimate dinner dates, and “quality time” in hidden love nests. Somehow, they claim to have come into the possession of messages that Bezos sent to Sanchez.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail claims that a source close to the Bezos family says that his relationship with Sanchez began after the couple’s separation. Entertainment Tonight claims two sources who say the same of Sanchez and her marriage to the Hollywood agent Patrick Whitesell.
The different versions are all grimly believable. It is a celebrity divorce, with the gleeful crowd and toxic cloud that entails.
But it is the 2010s, and the National Enquirer is not just any old news outlet. And Jeff Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post, which frequently draws ire from Donald Trump, who dislikes its coverage of his presidency. There’s more. American Media, the Enquirer’s parent company, under its CEO, David Pecker, admitted that it worked with the Trump campaign to pay Karen McDougal $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story about an affair with Donald Trump, which it then killed. “At times, it seemed like the Enquirer operated as a de facto arm of the campaign,” wrote Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair.
So, it’s not surprising that the MSNBC host Chris Hayes pointed out another angle on Twitter. “Given everything we know about how Pecker’s National Enquirer has functioned as essentially an arm of Trumpworld, [the story] prompts some questions,” Hayes tweeted.
The implication, it would seem, is that Trump or Trump’s team hit Bezos, a perceived rival, through his longtime friend’s paper, the National Enquirer. Which: Who knows, and I won’t speculate. But let’s just say that it is not outside the long-established character of the National Enquirer to attempt to out a possibly cheating celebrity.
Read: The other way the National Enquirer helped elect Trump
In Leon Neyfakh’s Slow Burn podcast series on how Watergate happened, his sixth episode traces how conspiratorial thinking came to dominate the early 70s. If the very president of the United States could be involved in all kinds of petty duplicitousness requiring cover-ups and secret tapes and payoffs, how could anything be what it seemed on the surface, or just dumb luck? The details of Nixon’s downfall “made Americans more suspicious than they’ve ever been and more desperate to uncover the secrets their government was keeping from them,” Neyfakh says. “Basically, Watergate turned everyone into a conspiracy theorist.”
In our times, the same disease has taken hold, but through the million muted post horns of the internet. For every theory that’s spittle flecked with Alex Jones conspiracism, there’s another one that connects it to an extended diagram of the Mueller investigation. Not even a dirtbag celebrity tabloid can publish regular dirtbag celebrity things without somehow touching a federal investigation.