February 4th, 2013
07:06 PM ET
2 years ago

CNN TV Exclusive: Menendez speaks out, rebuts prostitute claims

(CNN) - Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, in an exclusive television interview with CNN on Monday, denied claims that he had engaged in parties with prostitutes during trips to the Dominican Republic.

"The bottom line is all those smears are absolutely false," Menendez told CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash on Capitol Hill.

The New Jersey Democrat is also battling allegations of improper travel with a generous donor whose plane he took to the Dominican Republic and who has business ties in the Caribbean nation.

Shortly before Election Day, a conservative online publication cited three unidentified sources who claimed Menendez had flown on private planes to the Caribbean and during the trips had sex parties with prostitutes.

Menendez, however, fired back on Monday and called the prostitute allegations "unsubstantiated."

"The smears that right-wing blogs have been pushing since the election - and that is totally unsubstantiated and it's amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a web site can drive that type of story into the mainstream," he said.

"But that's what they've done successfully. Now nobody can find them. No one ever met them. No one ever talked to them but that's where we're at," he added.

READ MORE: Home state newspaper casts doubt on Menendez during scandal

His comments came as one of the women accused of being a prostitute involved with Menendez denied those claims in a Spanish-language interview released on Monday.

The woman, identified as 21-year-old Yaneisi Fernandez, says she's never met Menendez or worked as a prostitute.

"I've never participated in those activities, I don't know those people or that man," Fernandez told Univision. CNN is not able to verify Fernandez's story.

As for the other allegations, Menendez has faced scrutiny for taking multiple flights in 2010 with the donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, a South Florida ophthalmologist. However, he didn't pay for the flights-valued at $58,500-until January 4 of this year.

Asked Monday why it took so long to repay the money, Menendez said he was having a busy year and chalked it up to an oversight.

"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 a re-election cycle and in the process of all of that, it unfortunately fell through the cracks," he told CNN.

"When it came to my attention that payment had not taken place, I personally paid for them in order to meet my obligation," he added.

Pressed further on how he managed to overlook such a big chunk of money, Menendez said, "The bottom line is when it came to my attention, I paid for it."

"There were a series of flights that were alleged," he continued. "Several of them were shown not to be the case, but after the election when I got to look at the allegations and I did my own self-inspection, I ultimately came forward. As a matter of fact, one of those flights I self reported."

Another issue has to do with whether Menendez advocated on Capitol Hill on behalf of ICSSI - a port security company in which Melgen has a stake. The company had a contract to screen cargo that went through Dominican ports, but Menendez argued last July during a Senate subcommittee hearing that Dominican authorities didn't want to "live by" the contract.

Asked if he used his influence to help Melgen, he said: "I have always advocated for issues and I have advocated for policies, and that's what I have done across the board."

– CNN's Jim Acosta, Adriana Hauser, Alan Duke, Kevin Liptak and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

READ MORE: Sen. Menendez faces scrutiny over ties to Florida doctor


Filed under: Bob Menendez • Senate
soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Bjenkum

    if still alive, these girls are running. Given that Menendez is finally talking I suspect they got them.

    February 4, 2013 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  2. Joe

    OK Lance...we believe you

    February 4, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  3. itsy_bitsy

    Hmmmm! Yep! Sure! Innocent right??? Unhuh! Sorry Senator, but evidently I look dumber than I am! Who the hell do you think your kidding??

    February 4, 2013 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  4. Steve

    Dirty old man thinks he can blame "right wing" bloggers.
    And CNN goes on defense to defend this dirt bag.
    What a joke.

    February 4, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  5. TexBill

    Bill Clinton would be proud.

    February 4, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  6. Tate

    Dead man walking! This dirtbag is done. Should be jailed along with the Dr. Feel good.

    February 4, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  7. Fred

    the coverup is often worse than the act

    February 4, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  8. Flayer

    Oh, we'll. Menedez says he's innocent and CNN concurs, or at least does not display any interest in this story, so nothing to see here folks. Move along. He was just too busy to pay his $58,000 travel bill (until caught) so also nothing to see here.

    February 4, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  9. CRaven Moorehead

    Throw this stinkimg bum out.. and his pal Frank " the cadaver" Lousenberg

    February 4, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  10. greg

    Harry Reid can use nameless sources to lie about Mitt Romney, but apparently Democrats feel they should be immune. A pox on both their houses, and the sheep that keep reelecting them.

    February 4, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  11. Richard

    What else can he say, unless he shoots himself in the foot and tells the truth!

    February 4, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  12. Vuulfie

    Were his lips moving?
    Yeah, smears and lies.

    February 4, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  13. Steve Reiss

    So the crook and pedophile is upset and indignant over the accusations, eh???

    Ha ha ha: anyone recall that OTHER NJ crook, Bob Toricelli?? They ALL deny, deny, deny and then slink away when the party elders convince them to fade away...so yet another Democrat crook can take their place......

    February 4, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  14. mrsugs

    This rumor has been active for a while now.You seem so pro amnisty, no matter how harmful it will be to our Country. You should resign and save the party from shame...

    February 4, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  15. Tom

    Ya .......Billy Boy said the same thing about Monica.......

    February 4, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  16. Derek Marlowe

    Sounds like the Democrat operatives are finding the girls and making them offers they cant refuse.

    February 4, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  17. Shooter

    Of course we expect denials. But, usually...following the denials are the revelations which make the denials moot.

    February 4, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  18. Journalist

    QUESTION: What about the fact that he's following a young Latina on Twitter named "Unapologeticxx"? Pics of the two of them together need to be explained.

    February 4, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  19. Jimbo

    Sounds like he is guilty of the allegations. He should request a polygraph exam to bolster his innocence.

    February 4, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  20. Peggy Griffin

    He said the claims were "unsubstantiated." He didn't say they were untrue. Hmmmm....

    February 4, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  21. mannyv

    Harry Reid supports him, so you know he's guilty. Harry's the same Senator that said "I have proof that Romney didn't file taxes for 10 years."

    February 4, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  22. Victoria

    Um- Menendez doesn't seem to understand that it was the very liberal Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington organization that went to the FBI about him- NOT a right wing organization.

    February 4, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  23. Metfan Lou

    Oh yeah that's it. Those ten years I forgot to file my taxes I was very busy and I guess "it just fell through the cracks." Yeah that's it, that's what I'll tell the Irs. Brilliant!

    February 4, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  24. Bob Klingenberg

    Totally understandable. He was busy and forgot to pay 60 grand. Of course no one on his staff would be tasked to keep track of such things. The voters will understand. Look at how many of them get side tracked trying to put food on their table to feed their families and forget to pay the mortgage until it is brought to their attention.

    February 4, 2013 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  25. MJS

    This guy is a worse liar than he is a Senator.

    You're guilty Menedez, and from your strange tone of voice and convenient explanations you are showing your inner Weiner.

    February 4, 2013 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
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