February 4th, 2013
07:06 PM ET
1 year 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. JJ

    Send an investigator to the Dominican Republic. 10 to 1 he's proven a liar.

    February 4, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  2. tim larry

    typical communist, do as i say, not as i do, or else i,ll take away what you need. in a fair and balanced way.. across the board. what a liar.

    February 4, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  3. Johnny DC

    When this happens to Republicans, it becomes a media frenzy for months on end. When it's a Democrat, it takes CNN days – if not weeks – to get it up on the site, and even then, it takes a back seat to other stories deemed more newsworthy.

    And here's the part where we Conservatives separate ourselves – I believe members from both parties should be scrutinized substantially. The hearings and cries against former Senator Craig were spot on. If only the same scrutiny was thrown at this particular case, where the alleged lawbreaker has the ever unique position of claiming these allegations are "false".

    February 4, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  4. Jesse

    he's lying. But he's got his bases covered. Which means a couple of lunk heads are gettin' beat with baseball bats in a corn field somewhere and tossed into a shallow grave. That takes care of that.

    February 4, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Don't forget, it is what's good for the party, not what's good for the people

    February 4, 2013 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  6. Rex

    Give it a few weeks, he'll be doing the standard apology tour. But no perp walk, of course, because of his "public service"

    February 4, 2013 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  7. WALLEY

    What I dont get is what this guy REALLY did.... I mean they all rape little girls an boys all the time... this manendez guy must Have really pist off the SICKO real leaders of the country to not get this flushed under the rug like all the rest of the crap barry an the boys an girls get away with

    February 4, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  8. bob

    hahaha...another classic prog/demorat...he fits right in with obama...he is going to replace reid for leader of the senate...as soon as he takes reid to the little girls and boys he so loves...hahaha

    February 4, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  9. Mike

    I'm accustomed to this kind of thing getting out re: Republicans (especially the most pious, holier-than-thou Repubs), but I just HATE to see it come out on Dems. Not that Repubs engage in this sort of activity any more than Dems – no, this is a universal affliction. Hope this isn't Anthony Wiener all over again. Why deny it if it's true? If it's true, take your medicine like a man. If the medicine means you resign your seat, so be it. Take responsibility, like you're always preaching at everyone else to do, congresspeople! But I hope they're wrong about Menendez.

    February 4, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  10. KeninTexas

    "unsubstantiated." does not mean the same as "untrue."

    February 4, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  11. Bryan

    I'm sure Candy Crowley will defend him! He's a liberal Democrat, after all.

    February 4, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    why courteous for a jerk?

    February 4, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  13. mrbill

    comone bob ,everyhting is a right wing smear.

    February 4, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  14. Bill Visser

    They don't come any dirtier than good ole Robert Menendez.

    Like any law abiding politician would forget" to pay $60K for aline flights.

    This loser MUST be Censured.

    February 4, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  15. mrsugs

    I guess Nancy,forgot this evil one,when she drained the swamp...

    February 4, 2013 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  16. abbey

    It's George Bush's fault!

    February 4, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  17. Exnjcop

    Rather than investigate some very serious charges, CNN simply provides a megaphone for the Democrat to declare the charges not false..but.. unsubstantiated.

    February 4, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  18. Jay Howard

    Jackie Chan was right....

    February 4, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  19. Yeah Right

    Sleazy Bill, Ike, Tricky Dick, JFK, Bobby, FDR, J Edgar, Rev. MLK, Spitzer, LBJ, Dick Armey, Bob Barr, Roy Cohn, Henry Hyde, Jimmy Swaggart, Gary Hart, Bill Oreilly, Hillary

    All liar and deniers

    And we should believe Menendez?

    February 4, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  20. Dave

    Another crooked politician who tells us what to do while behaving like a scoundrel, color me surprised

    February 4, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  21. Brenda

    Who are we talking about? Lyle or Erik Menendez?

    February 4, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  22. Pouncekitty

    Menendez is one of your typical Democrat skunk serial abusive men, like Ted Kennedy, who get away with rape, even murder, because the press COVER THEIR CRIMES! The press are the real criminals here. If this were a Republican, don't you think the press would be ALL OVER IT??? Duh, girls!

    February 4, 2013 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  23. Caius Keys

    A crooked Democratic politician from New Jersey? You're right - this is clearly a hit job on Menendez by bitter conservatives. Somebody get Jon Corzine on the phone stat! If Harry Reid says he's okay, then that's good enough for me!

    February 4, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  24. chica

    The main stream media will always lick the little round things called balls of the politician.....

    February 4, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  25. John

    As long as New Jersey has a Republican governor he can count on the Dems circling the wagons, regardless of whether the accusations are true or not.

    February 4, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
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