WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez said allegations that he engaged with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic are false “smears.”
The Democrat said he has done nothing wrong.
“The smears that right wing blogs have been pushing since the election and that is totally unsubstantiated. It’s amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a website can drive that type of story into the mainstream, but that’s what they have done successfully,” Menendez told CNN. “Now, nobody can find them, no one ever met them, no one ever talked to them, but that’s where we are at. So, the bottom line is all of those smears are absolutely false, and that’s the bottom line.”
Menendez met with reporters Monday evening for the first time since the allegations spread after the FBI last week raided the offices of a Florida ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen, who also was the senator’s biggest political donor in his re-election campaign last year.
Menendez acknowledged that he flew on the Melgen’s private plane to the Dominican Republic and addressed allegations that he didn’t pay for the trips.
“I was in a big travel schedule in 2010 as the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, plus my own campaign getting ready for re-election and in the process of all of that it unfortunately fell through the cracks that our processors didn’t catch, making sure that we paid. When it came to my attention that payment had not taken place, I personally paid for them in order to meet my obligation,” Menendez said.
But he denied meeting with prostitutes and blamed that allegation on political enemies.
The allegations first appeared on a conservative website just before last November’s election but did not make their way to major media outlets until last week.
Meanwhile, a lawyer in the Dominican Republic has also dismissed allegations that he and Menendez attended parties with under-aged prostitutes.
Attorney Vinicio Castillo Seman said allegations published in the U.S. media and on the Internet are a smear campaign to scuttle a port security contract sought by a company controlled by Melgen.
Melgen’s Florida offices were recently searched by federal agents. His attorney says he’s done nothing wrong.
An anonymous tipster has circulated emails accusing Menendez of having sex with prostitutes, including at least one under 18, in 2009 and 2010. Some encounters allegedly occurred on Castillo’s yacht.
Castillo said Monday the allegations are “absurd.”
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