(CNN) – The Florida doctor who found himself embroiled in allegations leveled at Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez said in an interview published Tuesday that his name and reputation have been unfairly sullied.
“They took away my dignity. They portrayed me as a greedy guy who was with politicians for the quid pro quo,” Salomon Melgen said in the interview with Bloomberg.
Questions revolve around Menendez’s relationship with Melgen, a Florida eye doctor who owned a plane Menendez admits to having flown on three times to the Dominican Republic in 2010. One flight was on official Senate business, and two others were for personal reasons.
Melgen, his wife, Flor, and his daughter, Melissa, have been generous donors to Menendez, his fellow Democrats and related causes in recent years.
In January, Menendez paid approximately $58,500 to Melgen for the flights he took in 2010, chalking up the lapse in payment to his busy schedule.
"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," Menendez told CNN's Dana Bash, adding that when it came to his attention that the payment had not been made, he "personally paid" for it in order to meet his obligation.
Questions were also raised when it was revealed Menendez had intervened in a federal audit of Melgen’s Medicare billing practices. Menendez raised concerns with federal officials' conclusion that Melgen had overbilled the federal government by $8.9 million in Medicare and Medicaid payments when treating patients at his West Palm Beach clinic.
In the interview, Melgen said he “did not ask Senator Menendez or any public official to intervene in the pending overpayment case.”
“My representative and I have discussed the lack of clarity in Medicare billing rules and CMS’s contradictory guidance with several public officials, including Senator Menendez and his staff,” he continued.
Melgen added in the interview Tuesday that he and Menendez “have become like brothers, like friends,” saying that before the allegations emerged he spoke with the New Jersey Democratic every week and saw him once a month.
“We enjoy each other’s company,” he said. “He could do great things for this country, especially as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.”
CNN's Steve Brusk and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.