National Enquirer for sale as tabloid feels heat from its own scandals

(Reuters) - The owner of the National Enquirer said on Wednesday it was considering selling the tabloid, which has admitted to paying hush money to help U.S. President Donald Trump get elected and been accused of attempting to blackmail Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

American Media Inc (AMI) said in a statement it is looking at “strategic options” for the weekly, as well as for the Globe and the National Examiner brands.

“We feel the future opportunities with the tabloids can be best exploited by a different ownership,” the company said in a statement. An AMI spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

Last year, AMI cooperated with federal prosecutors to avoid charges and admitted it made a $150,000 hush-money payment to a former Playboy magazine model to prevent her from going public ahead of the 2016 election with claims that she had an affair with Trump.

The incident involved a practice called “catch and kill” in which the tabloid bought rights to a story but never published the potentially damaging information. David Pecker, chief executive of American Media, has been a longtime Trump ally and has described the president as a “personal friend.”

Trump and his lawyers have argued the payments were a personal matter unrelated to the election.

More recently, the National Enquirer has been embroiled in a battle with Bezos, the CEO of Inc and also the owner of the Washington Post.

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The world’s richest man, who has frequently been a target of ire from Trump, has accused the publication of trying to blackmail him with the threat of publishing intimate photos.

AMI has defended its reporting on Bezos’ affair with Lauren Sanchez, a former television anchor.

Earlier in April, Jeff Bezos reached a divorce settlement with his wife MacKenzie that made her the world’s third-richest woman while allowing him to retain voting control of his entire stake in Amazon.

Over its 92-year history, the National Enquirer has enticed readers in supermarket checkout lines with sensational headlines and photos about celebrities. The tabloid’s website claims it reaches an audience of 5 million.

Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru and Makini Brice in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Sonya Hepinstall