Jeff Bezos (Getty/Matt Winkelmeyer)

Jeff Bezos' divorce drama and those awful sexts: Why we can't look away

The salacious tabloid reporting on Bezos' divorce is compelling because of the unique role he plays in our lives


Rachel Leah
January 11, 2019 8:00PM (UTC)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' alleged sexts are all over the Internet, and no one can look away. As the days go on, the public narrative around his divorce is only getting messier.

On Wednesday, Bezos posted a long message to Twitter signed by himself and his wife of 25 years, Mackenzie Bezos, to share the news "of a development in our lives. As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends," it began. "If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again. We've had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures. Though the labels might be different, we remain a family, and we remain cherished friends."

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The initial message read as sweet, amicable, loving — and then it all fell apart. Hours later, the National Enquirer came through with a "blockbuster exclusive of the world's richest couple," alleging that the Bezos are actually divorcing because the Amazon CEO was caught cheating with former news anchor Lauren Sanchez. And how did they get this story? The Enquirer had "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," according to the tabloid, saying it followed the secretive couple over a four-month period, including across five states.

The Enquirer also boasted of possessing "raunchy messages and erotic selfies" between the two. Hence, the release of these, the alleged sexts of Jeff Bezos:

"I love you, alive girl. I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon."

"I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight.… I want to kiss your lips…. I love you. I am in love with you."

If you're also wondering why Bezos' alleged sexts read like they were written by a Russian bot, well, the jury is still out. And apparently now, the "erotic selfies" mean d**k pics. Please, make it stop.

Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda managed to be dragged into the narrative, as Bezos allegedly tried to hire the "Hamilton" star to write and direct a Super Bowl commercial that he could also hire Sanchez to work on, just to spend more time with her under an ostensibly legitimate alibi.

So yes, if that wild rumor turned out to be true, insanely rich people even cheat differently.

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Bezos and Sanchez deny the infidelity, however. Sources for both  told various outlets that their romantic relationship only began once they had both officially separated from their spouses. Sanchez is married to Patrick Whitesell, a major talent agent.

Thursday, for some reason, a reporter asked President Trump if he had a comment on Bezos' divorce: "I wish him luck," Trump responded. "It’s going to be a beauty."

But even before the president of the United States (!) made his odd comments about Bezos' split, the fact that it was the Enquirer who has published every salacious detail of the Bezos-Sanchez saga raised more questions than answers. After all, the Enquirer is a subset of American Media, whose CEO David Pecker eventually admitted late last year to paying Karen McDougal $150,000 to obtain exclusive rights to her story about an extramarital affair with Trump on behalf of his presidential campaign, then killing the story. So while it's more than plausible that the Enquirer's story is politically motivated, given the ongoing feud Trump has been engaged in with Bezos, it's still impossible to ignore.

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The fact that so many of us are following, sharing, commenting upon and analyzing every lascivious detail speaks in part to the reality-TV administration we've all been living under, in which, as the Atlantic wrote, "The distance between obvious and far-fetched has collapsed."

But it's also more than that — specifically, this is about who Bezos is and what he represents. As the richest man in the world, he's a walking billboard for income inequality, for an outrageous sum of concentrated wealth that is woefully undertaxed. First he ruined Seattle, and now he'll do the same to Queens and northern Virginia. And as the CEO of Amazon and the owner of the Washington Post, he remains ever-present in our lives.

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Perhaps most frighteningly, at the intersection of technology, power and capitalism Bezos seemingly answers to no one — certainly not to the people or his workers, making him an unelected, untouchable, unaccountable corporate god of sorts. He's part of the cohort of heads of big tech companies that consistently evade any responsibility for breaching our privacy, and so yes, maybe we're reveling just a little bit in the vulnerability now revealed in those hilarious sexts. 

There is reportedly no prenup between Mackenzie and Jeff Bezos, making her entitled to half of his nearly $137 billion net worth. She's been there from the very beginning, when Amazon was just an idea, and if she does get half, "the divorce could drastically reduce Jeff Bezos' stake in Amazon and open the door for his wife to become one of its largest shareholders, with new leverage at the company," CNN Business reported. Mackenzie Bezos is also poised to potentially become one of the wealthiest women in the world. She's taking that money for all of us.

The exposure of Bezos doesn't do anything to change the state of corporate oligarchy, or unlimited privatization, or the lousy economy that has ruined any semblance of security for milliennials. But we've come of age and adulthood in this America, and guys like Bezos and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg are among the major players and faces of it.

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The consequences of this new culture and economy — which leaves most of us in a precarious balancing act of survival, while a handful are able to capitalize on it — are seemingly irreversible. Corporate greed and political power are so intertwined and muddled that a wealthy business failure and bully currently occupies the highest office in the land, as federal workers are going on weeks and counting without pay.

However, in the most pettiest of ways, the publishing of Bezos' sexts, along with his personal vulnerability and the possibility of his economic power slightly diminished , feels like us turning the tables on him, even if just an inch.  So yes, we're going to let these Prime jokes reign.


Rachel Leah

Rachel Leah is a culture writer for Salon. You can follow her on Twitter: @rachelkleah.

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