February 4th, 2013
07:06 PM ET
7 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. John Edwards

    So what. To me: A relaxed senator is a good senator. What's the big deal here? He who has not popped a pro, cast the 1st stone. Geez, move on CNN.

    February 4, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  2. jimmy

    bobby m the crook,he got this new accent, like he talks in his nose. He started under Musto and Cuban mob in union city. Then when feds came, he ratted on musto,made deals with all to become mayor after musto went too jail.He is on HUD panel, He is very close too applied Barry, Another crook who paid off all Hudson county to build hud apts. Got rich.Again Bobby was close too that rat, Bobby J.. Bobby J went too Jail, as did Barry. His Family still gets HUd Cash cow. Uhmm who made that happen? Bobby M? Uhmm Booby M girlfriend was kept in nice apt, the barry's owned. Cant deny that one, too many people knew. Moved her after he wated too be in job he is now. CROOK.

    February 4, 2013 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  3. George

    How do you know if a politician is lying? His lips are moving; old one, but so true.

    February 4, 2013 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  4. John

    Saying the charges are "unsubstanciated" is quite different from denying the charges as the lead paragraph states.

    February 4, 2013 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  5. common sense

    CNN couldn't publish a true story if their life depended on it! Quit trying to defend Menendez like you did Clinton and see the reality that this guy is a slime!!!

    February 4, 2013 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  6. Joe Murphy

    You can take the man out of Mexico...

    February 4, 2013 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  7. Dick Guzinia

    Senator "Mendacious." More reptilian than Schumer.

    February 4, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  8. Mr

    The old right wing conspiracy defense. We know where that will get you. Lol

    February 4, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  9. Gary Johnson

    The best defense is ALWAYS a good offense...especially when you're a democrat in bed with the media.

    February 4, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  10. levendi

    Democrats love to tax the American citizen but they never pay their taxes. Do as I say, not as I do is really important to the Democrats. "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." Oh, yeah, $58,000 oversight, was too busy. AND what are all the flights to the D.R. for? Well certainly not for having intercourse with minors. And if so, what is the left and Democrats saying about that? It's OK to have intercourse with minor girls in the D. R. because it's legal there. Nice. Throw the bum out.

    February 4, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  11. Tommy

    Well do you really think he is going to say hell yes i was doing all those things

    February 4, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  12. jowl

    remember Anthony Weiner..

    where there is smoke, there's fire.. when does allegations like this EVER turn out to be untrue?

    February 5, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  13. North Dallas Don

    How do we know a politician is sleazy? We know because not one of them isn't sleazy.

    February 5, 2013 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  14. humberto

    Memendez is a liar.

    February 5, 2013 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  15. Jcook

    Haha! That's what they all say.

    February 5, 2013 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  16. Strelok

    Unsubstantiated? Why would anyone say that? I suppose if I were worried I'd have to testify under oath I'd say something like that...really clever!

    February 5, 2013 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  17. Anonymous

    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.
    How did I forget my second home in the islands ( test question) said the Ways and Means chairman about his taxes.
    And on and on.

    February 5, 2013 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  18. Bruce Gregory

    So, Senator Menendez finds it amazing that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals can drive this type of story into the mainstream, eh? Well, perhaps he can enlist Senator Reid's help in getting to the bottom of these scurrilous accusations. Maybe Senator Reid will be kind enough to source the anonymous, nameless, faceless party that claimed Mitt Romney didn't pay taxes for the past ten years too. Are you still amazed Mr. Menendez?

    February 5, 2013 03:47 am at 3:47 am |
  19. DasBoot

    What else would he say

    February 5, 2013 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  20. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    It's getting to the point where you almost expect these Politicians to be shady characters. Why else do they stay way past their years? It must be very lucrative.

    February 5, 2013 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  21. javaman

    This Honorable Senator is so full of crap.....

    February 5, 2013 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  22. Tk

    Does anyone really buy this? Pretty soon the truth will come out and he will apologize. Then, will ask for forgiveness for his mistake. Seen it before.

    February 5, 2013 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  23. JerPell

    Yet another Obama administration scandal....What a corrupt bunch we now have in Washington....

    February 5, 2013 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  24. Jerry Sekerke

    Where were you when they did this to Herman Kane?

    February 5, 2013 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  25. georgem

    He is a very sick man that deserves jail time!

    February 5, 2013 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6