Share This Page

Menendez: Allegations about prostitutes 'smears'

| Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, 9:24 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said on Monday that allegations that he engaged the services of underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic are “smears.”

Menendez spoke to reporters for the first time about the allegations. They include reports that he traveled to the Dominican Republic for free on a plane owned by a Florida eye doctor who's a campaign donor. The doctor's West Palm Beach, Fla., office was raided by the FBI last week. Menendez used $58,500 of his own money on Jan. 4 to reimburse the doctor, Salomon Melgen, for two plane trips taken in 2010.

“This fell through the cracks. It was a mistake,” Menendez said of why he didn't pay for the trips earlier. “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.”

The conservative Daily Caller website, founded by Tucker Carlson, a veteran journalist, and Neil Patel, former chief policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, first reported the flights in the fall, tying them to accusations of underage prostitution in the Dominican Republic, where Melgen owns a home.

The website interviewed two women, purported prostitutes who allegedly had relations with Menendez. In a video posted on the site, their faces were blurred and they spoke through a translator.

On Monday, Menendez called the prostitution allegations “smears that right-wing blogs have been pushing since the election.” They are “totally unsubstantiated.”

The Spanish-language news station Univision interviewed one of the women, who sobbed on camera and denied the allegations as her family called for an investigation.

Menendez declined to answer questions about whether he would resign.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.