(CNN) - Sen. Robert Menendez has labeled as false a number of claims by unidentified accusers who, he says, are “trying to defame” him with accusations that he improperly used his office by accepting unreported plane flights, advocating on Capitol Hill on behalf of a business and intervening in a Medicare billing inquiry.
“It’s the last time I am going to say this - the last time. Anonymous people without faces, without names can make accusations and the press can ask these questions,” the New Jersey Democrat told the television network Univision.
“Those are false accusations, and they are trying to defame me, and are completely, not only absurd, but completely false.”
The claims first appeared shortly before the November 2012 election on a conservative website, and resurfaced this year after he paid nearly $58,500 for two plane flights in 2010 which he had not previously paid for or reported as gifts, as is required of senators. The flights went unpaid for, he said, because of his busy schedule.
He has denied wrongdoing relating to a number of the claims, including in an exclusive television interview on Monday with CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash. "The bottom line is all those smears are absolutely false," he said, describing claims that he had partied with prostitutes "unsubstantiated."
And a memo from his communications director to supporters obtained by CNN on Friday questioned both the source - "the right wing blogosphere" - and the timing - "the first attacks were unleashed just days before the November elections" - of the claims.
Inquiry from a number of news outlets, including The Washington Post, have recently turned up other developments, including claims Menendez spoke to Medicare officials about a billing issue involving a friend, campaign donor and ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen.
“We asked questions,” he said in the Univision interview. “There is a great difference between asking questions regarding the policies of Medicare and the confusing situation regarding the regulations and positions that Medicare has adopted, and actually interfering in a case. Whoever thinks I could interfere with a case to change the outcome of a case, it’s absurd.”
When pressed, he said he had thought the government was conducting an “administrative process” rather than an investigation.
Investigators recently removed boxes from Melgen’s South Florida office but it was not clear what the purpose of that investigation was nor if Menendez was included in the scope of the investigation.
Menendez also denied wrongdoing relating to his advocacy for ICSSI, a company that had a port security deal with the Dominican Republican. He owned stock in the company.
“Nobody has bought me,” he said. “No one. Ever. In the 20 years I've been in Congress, never has it been suggested that that could even be possible. Never in 40 years of public life. So I'm not going to reach this moment in my life to make that a possibility.”
At a congressional hearing last summer Menendez questioned U.S. officials about the contract said the Dominican Republic was not interested in following it. That reference, he told Univision, was “only a mention inside a large hearing with a lot more time and lot of other mentions,” not an attempt to advocate for the port company.
An editorial published Saturday in The New York Times urged Menendez step down from his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while an inquiry is conducted into “the swirling accusations of misconduct.”
He ascended to that spot this year upon the resignation of John Kerry, who now serves as secretary of state. The Times wrote he “was never a distinguished choice for chairman” and should not serve until the questions are resolved.
“It is unclear whether the Senate Ethics Committee has initiated a formal inquiry into Mr. Menendez's conduct, but a prompt and thorough review is surely called for. In the meantime, Mr. Menendez needs to relinquish his leadership role, at least temporarily,” the editorial read.
- CNN’s Steve Brusk, Elwyn Lopez, Isabel Carro, Ashley Killough and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.