The Washington Post is reporting that the man who reportedly paid women to accuse Senator Robert Menendez of prostitution says he was hired by the conservative political outlet that reported the news. Prompting this unprecedented statement: We must rise in defense of The Daily Caller.
The original accusations, which suggested that a Florida doctor paid women to have sex with the senator, fell apart when the Post reported that the women did receive money — but to lie to reporters, not to have sex. Several outlets talked to the women, but only The Daily Caller reported the allegations. Today, the Post's Carol D. Leonnig and Luz Lazo report that a "top Dominican law enforcement official" received reports from Melanio Figueroa, an attorney in that country, that he was told the blog was actually funding the effort.
[Figueroa] told Dominican investigators that a foreign man, who identified himself as “Carlos,” had offered him $5,000 to find and pay women in the Caribbean nation willing to make the claims about Menendez, according to Jose Antonio Polanco, district attorney for the La Romana region, where the investigation is being conducted. ...
Under police questioning, Figueroa said the foreign man, who said he worked for The Daily Caller but did not provide identification, asked him to arrange staged interviews, Polanco said.
Polanco said that Figueroa gave police an account describing his involvement in the taping, starting in October. He said he was approached by Carlos about the idea last fall, and they met in a small bar in a Santo Domingo shopping center to discuss the details, according to Polanco. He said the foreign man gave Figueroa a $2,000 “advance,” the lawyer told police, to make the arrangements for the interview.
The Daily Caller was quick to rebut the charges. A post on its website outlines the various ways in which Figueroa's claims have been inconsistent, and firmly indicates that the site played no role in the accusations. "What I know for certain is this claim is a lie," it quotes editor Tucker Carlson as saying. "The Daily Caller never paid anyone, was never asked to pay anyone and of course never would pay anyone for this story."
On their face, Figueroa's claims don't make much sense. Whether or not he was told by someone named Carlos that The Daily Caller wanted to hire women to lie about Menendez, there's very little motivation for the site to do so.
Doing so wouldn't be cheap or safe. The Daily Caller announced last year that it had for the first time become profitable, though it's impossible to verify if that is the case. Regardless, $5,000 is a not-insignificant sum of money to spend on a speculative story — particularly to impugn Menendez, who it rarely discussed prior to the allegations last fall. What's more, handing that money to a man so untrustworthy as to say where he got it would be either tremendously unlucky or tremendously stupid.
And one would think that the Daily Caller would at least then want an exclusive story. But on the same day that the site's reporter was talking to the alleged prostitutes, ABC's Brian Ross was as well. (ABC ultimately declined to run with it.) Had The Daily Caller made the investment, it's hard to believe the site would have given it away.
Most convincingly, in a report last night, Univision indicated that Figueroa implicated itself along with The Daily Caller and two other outlets — CNN Espanol and Telemundo. The Daily Caller's response was quick to note, though the Post makes no mention of it.
Figueroa lies at the center of a web of relationships. Still from Univision.
If nothing else, it seems clear that the women's accusations have been thoroughly debunked. Which is the longest-lasting problem for The Daily Caller, and why the Post's report could quickly become a problem. Even when it seemed clear that there were significant questions about the stories given by the prostitutes — the only sources cited in The Daily Caller's report — the site stood by the reporting.
For it to now defend its reputation just as vigorously makes Carlson and the site something like the boy who cried "True!" — asking we believe them one more time. This time, we should.