The Daily Caller claims that The Washington Post screwed up its report debunking their report about Senator Bob Menendez and Dominican prostitutes, but their defense isn't much more solid than the original story.
Late last night, Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson fired back at the Post's Monday evening claim that the prostitutes featured in a DC story from last year were paid to fabricate their claims of Menendez buying sex from them.
The Washington Post piece today on Menendez and the Dominican hookers was completely, utterly wrong. Our story coming soon.— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) March 5, 2013
WaPo might have saved itself the embarrassment if they'd bothered to call us before running their stupid piece.— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) March 5, 2013
Turns out the Washington Post got the wrong hooker: dailycaller.com/2013/03/05/wap…— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) March 5, 2013
Shortly before 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, The Daily Caller did offer its rebuttal, written by Executive Editor David Martosko, which includes several points that supposedly prove the Post interviewed the wrong woman. However, even if the claims prove what The Daily Caller thinks they prove, that doesn't necessarily mean the Post is "wrong" or that the women the Daily Caller interviewed weren't also paid to give false interviews.
For starters, Martosko suggests that the Post is confused, because the woman who gave the affidavit identified herself as 23-year-old Nexis de los Santos Santana, but the women they interviewed were 24 and both had different names. Because a woman who is being paid to lie about having sex with a United States Senator would definitely not lie about her name and age while doing so? (The Daily Caller story does not claim the women proved their identities to them.)
The Daily Caller also says that the woman claims she was paid to implicate a Dominican lawyer named Vinicio Castillo Semán, but that Seman was not mentioned in the DC interview. However, Seman was implicated in another written testimonial from an unidentified prostitute, so that doesn't necessarily mean the Post story is wrong or that de los Santos is lying. She could have implicated him to others; just not The Daily Caller. (Though The Daily Caller seems to be the only outlet that ran with it. ABC News says they didn't report the story because they didn't believe the women making the accusations.)
In the biggest strike against the Post story, Martosko says that de los Santos claimed in her sworn affidavit to being “surreptitiously taped," after refusing to give consent, but in the video of the Daily Caller interview she is "wearing an earpiece and answering questions." They also say that both women in the DC videos knew the camera was present (since it was a webcam interview) and consented to taping. The Miami Herald, doing additional reporting, adds that de los Santos claims she did not give consent to being videotaped.
That does seem to be the strongest piece of evidence that de los Santos is not the woman who was interviewed by The Daily Caller. Yet, Martosko admits in his post that there was a third woman who was supposed to speak to The DC via webcam, but the laptop battery died, "according to the translator." The idea that she could have later been taped "surreptitiously" or that The Daily Caller might have been misled about whether they gave consent—since the interviews were being done via translator over a webcam with the lawyer who allegedly arranged the scam on the other end—would not seem out the question.
In the end, all of these accusation are beside the point. It ultimately doesn't matter whether The Daily Caller is right and Nexis de los Santos Santana isn't actually one of the two women who was featured in their November 1 story about Menendez. The woman says that she and a friend were paid to make up the claims about Menendez and give those stories to journalists, suggesting the scam is wider than just one person. But even if the friend isn't one of the women in the video, the story still calls into question the entire premise of their original charge against Menendez. If someone was paying Dominican prostitutes to make up stories about the Senator, then the credibility of anyone telling the same story has to now be in question. Especially because there seems to be no other proof (according to the FBI) that Menendez is guilty. The woman in the Post story may be lying now, but nothing in The Daily Caller's response proves that she is.
Oh, and one final strike against The Daily Caller. Carlson claimed in his tweet that no one from the Post called before they published their story. Post reporter Carol Leonnig writes in the middle of her piece, that "Daily Caller Editor Tucker Carlson did not reply to phone calls and e-mails requesting comment."
Update (2:49 p.m.): Apologies to Carlson, because it seems he was right about the last part. According to Politico's Dylan Byers, Leonnig's first attempt to contact Carlson about this story via email came more than 30 minutes after her story went live on the Post website. The line about Carlson not responding to requests for comment was not in the original story, but was added later, and the Post did not indcate that story had been updated from its original version. Politico also says the story has been re-edited to avoid claiming outright that de los Santos was one of the women in the Daily Caller video, another update to the story that has not been noted on the Post website.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.