Sen. Robert Menendez is denying allegations that he was with prostitutes during a trip to the Dominican Republic. The report, which was unearthed by a conservative website last year, claims that Menendez went on the visit, specifically for the rendezvous.
Menendez blames partisan attacks and “anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals.”
“The smears, the smears that right-wing blogs have been pushing since the election,” he told CNN. “That is totally unsubstantiated. It's amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a website can drive that kind of story into the mainstream. But that's what they've done successfully. Now, nobody can find them, no one ever met them, nobody ever talked to them, but that's where we're at. The bottom line is all of those smears are absolutely false, and that's the bottom line.”
Denying the rumor since last year, the New Jersey Democrat is accused of using the business jet of friend and campaign donor Dr. Salomon Melgen, but failed to report the trip. Melgen's West Palm Beach, Fla. office was raided by the FBI last week, and in early January, Menendez paid Melgen a $58,500 reimbursement for the foreign relations trip. He claims that failure to report the expense was simply an oversight. “This fell through the cracks. It was a mistake,” he explained. “It was a mistake that, when it got brought to my attention and I reviewed it, I ultimately made the decision to pay for it.”
Melgen also owns a home in the Dominican Republic.
A prominent lawyer is accused of setting up the trysts on his yacht, claims of which both he and Menendez have denied.
Last week, Menendez was named chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, making the timing of this story potentially damaging to his reputation. While he has acknowledged making trips to the Caribbean island where prostitution is legal, his office says his motivation was to look into the unfair treatment of U.S. businesses in the country.
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite