Every muckraking journalist worth his or her salt yearns to unearth evidence of a political sex scandal, and Breitbart's Matthew Boyle thinks he has the scoop on Senator Robert Menendez's alleged rendezvous with Dominican prostitutes. Remember that Daily Caller's exclusive from November about Menendez's supposed Latin American trysts? Boyle wrote that. And now that the Florida offices of an optometrist who donated money (and prostitutes, if you believe the allegations) to Menendez has been raided by the FBI, Boyle is doubling down his efforts to break this story. Today, he points to supposed emails between an FBI agent and a Dominican source offering information about the case as further evidence that Menendez engaged potentially underage prostitutes while on a drunken bender in the D.R.
The New Jersey Democrat—one of the Senate's Gang of Eight immigration reformers and John Kerry's replacement as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman—denied the allegations on Wednesday afternoon. Yes, he did fly on Dr. Melgen's plane to the Dominican Republic—but no, he did not play "Latin Lover" to prostitutes there, the Senator maintains. The trips were "paid for and reported appropriately," and all this controversy is being fabricated by "a politically motivated right-wing blog," according to Menendez's office. Conservatives remain convinced the Senator is hiding something, though. For his work on the story, Boyle even got the coveted Michelle Malkin thumbs-up:
But does this Breitbart muckraker deserve the praise? So far, all the evidence that's emerged on this supposed scandal is inconclusive, misdirecting, or simply unrelated to the allegations at hand. Let's take a look at what Menendez has to answer for, and whether he should be worried:
The Daily Caller's interview with two Dominican prostitutes
The evidence that kick-started all this speculation remains a matter of he-said, she-said. Two anonymous sources speaking through a translator isn't exactly a slam-dunk proof of guilt. On top of that, even if what these women say is true, the allegations are more embarrassing than illicit. Prostitution is technically legal in the Dominican Republic, and Sen. Menendez isn't married, so infidelity isn't in play either way. The Daily Caller wasn't even able to prove that Menendez was in the country at the time that these two "witnesses" claim.
Menendez's undocumented intern
Whenever discussion of this case goes on long enough, Menendez critics inevitably cite his undocumented intern recently arrested by Homeland Security after he was revealed to be a sex offender. The AP reported that the arrest was possibly delayed until after the election for political reasons. Any way you slice this scandal, it doesn't look good for Menendez. But it's neither here nor there when we're talking about Dominican prostitutes.
The FBI raid on the offices of a Menendez donor
West Palm Beach optometrist Salomon Melgen is a central figure in the prostitue theory. His CL-600 Challenger plane flew Menendez down to a mansion in Casa de Campo, where the Senator allegedly paid women for sex. So reporters took note when Melgen's offices were raided by the FBI late last night and into this morning. But The Miami Herald reports that the raid could be completely unrelated to the doctor's (and the Senator's) supposed misadventures in the Dominican Republic:
On Wednesday, the FBI agents were joined by an inspector from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, indicating the search-and-seizure raid has ties to a possible Medicare fraud inquiry.
And The Star-Ledger's Matt Friedman writes that it could instead be related to tax fraud: "While no one would disclose what sparked the search, Melgen’s financial problems are no secret. There is an outstanding $11.1 million tax lien lodged against him by the IRS." So while it never looks good when a politician's loyal donor and close friend gets raided by the FBI, there's still no indication that today's raid had anything to do with prostitutes. Plus, just look at all these individual donors bankrolling Menendez's campaigns. There are bound to be a few bad apples in there, but until you can definitively link Menendez to their bad apple behavior, he's innocent until proven guilty.
The FBI emails
This would be the most damning piece of evidence—if only we knew that these emails are real. Boyle says that online exchanges leaked to Breitbart show that the FBI has been investigating Menendez's time in the Dominican Republic, and that an agent "offered, as recently as last week, to fly the original source of the story from the Dominican Republic to Miami to help with the agency’s inquiry into the matter." Miami Herald reporters cite "sources" that claim the emails are real, but the FBI and agent Regino Chavez won't comment on them. Though they're just making the media rounds now, the supposed emails have been on a pretty suspect looking site with no attribution for about a week already. We're talking about the kind of site that posts paranoid graphics like this:
Granted, that doesn't prove the emails are fabricated, but with such little confirmation that the FBI is indeed investigating Menendez's connection with Dominican prostitutes, it's best to stay skeptical.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.