Today New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez (D) spoke with CNN’s Dana Bash about the latest allegations surrounding his relationship with VOXXI founder Dr. Salomon Melgen, which involves unconfirmed accusations of underage prostitution, improper reporting of personal travel, and charges of influence peddling. Whispers began to circulate after the conservative Daily Caller published an initial report in November. Last week, after Melgen’s office was raided by the FBI, the story got picked up by major news outlets. At points, the events have reached bizarre levels. Here is the CNN video of what Menendez said today:
Menendez told CNN, “The bottom line is all those smears are absolutely false.”
He also said the following, “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. 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.”
Earlier today many outlets reported that one of the young women allegedly identified in the scandal went on Univision to deny that she was ever a prostitute or that she ever met Menendez. It was strange, to say the least: both the original Univision report and The Miami Herald’s reaction to it.
The CNN piece also included Menendez’s answers to personal flights that he took with Melgen:
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.”
Last week NBC Latino reported that Menendez reimbursed Melgen for two private flight to the Dominican Republic. Yesterday, Matthew Boyle, the reporter who wrote the initial Daily Caller story, reported on Breitbart that flight records indicated additional flights that Melgen’s plane took to New Jersey before heading to the Dominican Republic.
Menendez also addressed charges of influencing peddling for ICSSI, “a port security company in which Melgen has a stake,” according to CNN. The senator said, “I have always advocated for issues and I have advocated for policies, and that’s what I have done across the board.”