At times, the allegations and Senate ethics investigation surrounding New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, the only Latino Democrat in the Senate, have read like a bad Washington political novel. With news last week that one of Menendez’s accusers was paid to say that the senator had sex with her, part of the story has unraveled, yet even that part has issues.
So what do we know?
The Senate ethics investigation continues. This is the most definitive part of this story, and not much has been reported about the investigation since Menendez said the following about the allegations at Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, N.J. the last week of February: “In the end, I believe that justice will overcome the forces of darkness, Scriptures tell us that he who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. I have my hand on the plow and I am going to continue to look forward and to work to make that plow lead us to the fulfillment of educational, economic, and health care opportunity in this country.”
The Senate Ethics Committee is looking into Menendez’s relationship with friend and donor Dr. Salomón Melgen. The question is whether Menendez used his influence to help Melgen solve a dispute he had with the government about Medicare payments and why Melgen allegedly overbilled $8.9 million in medical services out of his clinic.
The alleged prostitution story has become the distracting issue, yet it has not stopped the Senate from investigating the ethics issues surrounding Menendez’s relationship with Melgen.
Which leads us to the next part of the story, which is more about the media and less about Menendez.
The Washington media is getting all crazy. Last week, after the Washington Post ran its story about the woman who said that he was paid to lie about Menendez, the Daly Caller, who original ran the first piece about Menendez allegedly sleeping with underage prostitutes, called the Post out for irresponsible reporting. This has led to a very public media spat that TPM has so brilliantly summarized here. Then a HuffPost story said that POLITICO was investigating the Menendez story before the Daily Caller decided to publish the original story.
ABC News then ran this report last week:
But after all this, the Daily Caller is still standing by its story. You are left to wonder now that this story is all about media credibility and who is the most credible. The Senate Ethics Committee will surely share its findings when they are ready to be shared, but in the meantime, when the media becomes the center of the story, it usually means that this was all a farce to begin with. If the Daily Caller is going to now “prove” that they are “right,” it will just distract from the real issue here: did Senator Menendez use his political influence to help a donor friend? And if so, how common is this is Washington? We will wait to hear what the Senate says, and if this entire story makes politicians pause the next time the have to act on something, maybe that is a good thing.