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. Ron

    I never understand why people respond to allegations by saying they are 'unsubstantiated' or 'there is no evidence'. Why not just say they are false?

    February 4, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  2. joe

    Rebuts? Sure......just like Anthony Weiner.

    February 4, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  3. America is Finished

    This is the kind of representation you get with one man one vote democracy. The founding fathers knew who should have the right to vote. Now, the numbers of orcs who can vote themselves your hard earned property is greater than the number of decent people left in this country. The system needs to be torn down.

    February 4, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  4. Collardgreens1

    Republicans resign in shame; Democrats keep going as if nothing were wrong.

    February 4, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  5. MIKESVOICE

    Why is it DemocRATs like Menendez and Dingy Harry expect us to take their word for anything.....during the Presidential Election Reid made unfounded (and later proved untrue) allegations regarding Romney's taxes.....A bald faced lie against someone he perceived as the "enemy"......why would't Harry also lie on behalf of a "friend" and DemocRAT buddy...who know's maybe Harry was on some of those trips as well, enjoying the services of the young girls!

    February 4, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  6. Horsense

    This will break Geraldo's heart!

    February 4, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  7. sanity

    Hey, CNN, there are responses but you won't post them.

    February 4, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  8. abobinmn

    If Menendez was smart would resign right now.

    February 4, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Sure buddy....sure.......just an oversight....sure, no problem.

    February 4, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  10. dryden01

    Perhaps the Senator would care to testify under oath and bear the consequences either way in case justice prevails? The media should treat him with the same contempt they treat any republicans that tap their feet in restroom stalls, for instance. It is a sad commentary that the fourth estate has to get its news from the internet and be embarrassed into printing it in order to maintain some sense of credibility as journalists.

    February 4, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  11. PLauren

    When a person incurs an expense they normally pay for it at that time or immediately when the bill arrives......Menendez wasn't looking to pay that bill until it became an issue...he is an out and out creep...he needs to go.

    February 4, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  12. peter

    hahaha... of course would he admit it? Liar.

    February 4, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  13. chris

    liar.
    another democrat liar.

    February 4, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  14. Emory

    I gave up the democratic party.

    February 4, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  15. Tommys

    Anybody believe him? I don't.

    February 4, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  16. Milagros

    If he did these things on his own time and didn't use any government facilities who cares. If he misused campaign funds and or govt facilities that's a different story. No way Bash was going to press him one bit. She served up the ball and listened to a well prepared Menendez lecture. THE END.

    February 4, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  17. LollaPalooka

    I notice Dana Bash forgot to ask the disgraced senator who rebutted allegations with the boilerplate "vast right wing conspiracy" answer, what his favorite color is.

    February 4, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  18. Scott

    Anthony Weiner denied everything too !

    February 4, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  19. Francis T. Naughton

    The only known facts are the fflights that he ultimately paid for only after being forced into it by the disclosure that his friend and benefactor was being investigated by the FBI for fraud, et al. The bill was 58 thousand plus. I suppose he used pokey change for it. Ere ther other flights, paid or unpaid?

    February 4, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  20. Jersey Prophet

    Only a fool (or a Dem) would believe that a senator accepted generous flights and other personal favors from a person not even in the senator's state, then can't remember not paying for them. How stupid do they think the American people are? How arrogant can a senator be to expect his behavior is an innocent oversight?

    February 4, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  21. cojo

    "The bottom line is all those smears are absolutely false."

    OK, there is the first denial.
    It will be interesting to see him twist and squirm over the next few days and weeks as the net slowlycloses around him.
    Another political perv exposed.

    February 4, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  22. Richard Right

    I forget, which Democratic politician said" If we can't benefit from our position in Congress what use is there to be a member of Congress?"

    February 4, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  23. Joinamerica

    Senator, I don't believe you.

    February 4, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  24. cojo

    I remember Nixon's denials and hundreds of others up to Wiener's denials.
    They all twist for a while, trying to hang on. 'Til their position is untenable.
    Great fun to watch.

    February 4, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  25. Sonny Guizzetti

    Once again CNN is doing their best to act like their network is following the will of God. I think not. This Menendez, whether innocent or guilty, has not been handled like they do with Republicans. Foley(sp) or the to tapping incident with the Republican in the rest room both were bombarded prior to admitting guilt or being found guilty. Yet both resigned. From Clinton up to now, has a democrat been held to the same scrutiny or did any ever resign? I already know the answer.

    February 4, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
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