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. splassher6

    Well CNN is covering the denials...Lets see how much they cover it once the story is proven to be true...

    February 4, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  2. J. Cannon

    You can always tell when a sleezbag politician is lying...

    February 4, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  3. John.nosetip

    Prediction... If any other flights are reported in the press he will find oversights there also

    There will be numerous contracts to be had in africa and syria if it ever falls. Can you imagine the daydreams of money he is having about being the chair of foreign relations cmt.

    There's a chance it could rival the fraud involved in the iraqi reconstruction project but that would take some doing

    February 4, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  4. Name lynn

    Robert these people are really after you, guilty or not.

    February 4, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  5. reelman1946

    Not to worry...dimdems get a pass on anything related to character,..its the "is is" way...the media will ignore or defend like they did known serial adulterer Willy Klinton...Teddy K's killer trips and Jesse's adultery love child..the corrupt pawn media is like that...gullible biased fools.

    February 4, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  6. rightside

    Ah the cover up. When will these guys learn the cover up will get them ever time. Why not do a mea culpa and the libs will forgive and forget. He is now headed down the Weiner path. He thinks he has Corzine's clout. Wrong baby wrong.

    February 4, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  7. JP

    Amazing, nameless, faceless, people can claim Mitt Romney paid no taxes and Senator Menendez was no where to be found.

    February 4, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  8. Brewster

    "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."

    Gee – kinda like Harry Reids' smears against Romney during the election, huh? Oh wait, that's different – Romney is a Republican. Never mind.
    Lets see if CNN will delete this....

    February 4, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  9. Michael

    He's just a trashy sleezebag who got caught and is now trying to figure a way out. Nice pick to represent you NJ!

    February 4, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  10. Josh

    The Dominican girls are in brothels all over the carribean...their lives are cheap to put it bluntly...There is no doubt in my mind that a rich businessman could have them "disappear" for 200 dollars...it aint America down there...she will say what she is told to.

    February 4, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  11. floyd

    As much as he is in denial it's bound to be true he's guilty.

    February 4, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  12. Skeptical

    Just like he forgot about the 58K in traveling costs, the bigger question is how does his Dr friend who owes millions in taxes contribute to his campaign and how does he afford to fly Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez with all those tax issues ? Now why would Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez be flying around with Dr. Salomon Melgen, Melgen’s practice gave $700,000 to Majority PAC, a super political action committee set up to fund Democratic candidates for Senate last year now how does a man who owes the IRS for the $11.1 million he owes in back taxes from 2006 to present pay for all of that. Next did this buy influence from Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez ?

    February 4, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  13. Tripp

    Right wing smear – sounds legit.

    February 4, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  14. JanieG

    It's a right wing conspiracy!!!! Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...right.

    February 4, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  15. Kathleen3

    CNN found only one woman who disputed the charges? What a surprise. Why not get in touch with the Soros funded CREW and check out some of the names they can provide. Better to shed sunlight on the story than to push the Daily Caller and the tax payers into the shadows.

    February 4, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  16. zella

    another great example of how they lie. Had a busy year and didn't pay until he got caught.......

    February 4, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  17. catabisis

    He's going down within a year.

    February 4, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  18. Bob

    He is a criminal.

    February 4, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  19. Bruce Stevens

    of course he denies it. While not illegal there it's not acceptable in this country and why was he so quick to pay the doctor back when he got caught. If I were him for the good of the Senate he should resign.his seat and no pun intended put this thing to bed..what will he do, apologize to the young girls he took advantage of. My father always taught me to live my life beyond reproach.. As a political figure there should be on question he should resign.

    February 4, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  20. JC

    I'd rather not talk about this guy's "smears."

    February 4, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  21. joe american

    Menendez is the perfect Demorat.......Barry will probably put him in charge of our schools. Lots of young girls for him to be around. That way, he wont have to travel so far for his jailbait.

    February 4, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  22. forrest

    It's normal for a democrat to be a pederast, just ask Harry Reid. Democrat women should really bend over in support of this guy.

    February 4, 2013 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  23. Rich

    Not one of the major 3 network evening news has even mentioned this

    February 4, 2013 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  24. bob

    Pedophile – why liberal progressives keep defending dirt bags like this

    February 4, 2013 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  25. socalpimp

    What do you expect from a dirty Democrat!!!

    February 4, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
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