At a Black History Month event held at a Trenton, N.J. church on Sunday, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez blamed conservatives for his ethics scandals, framing them as a racial attack on him because of his Hispanic heritage. “I have felt the sting of discrimination,” he told approximately 300 worshipers, according to the Bergen Record. ”It has never been easy.”
“Now we face anonymous, faceless, nameless individuals from right-wing sources seeking to destroy a lifetime of work,” Menendez said at Shiloh Baptist Church.
“And their smears are false. I have worked too hard and too long in the vineyards, too long with my hands, for the harvest to be soured.”
The Newark Star-Ledger reported that Menendez cloaked himself in the language of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Dr. King said that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’” Menendez said. “In the end, I believe that justice will overcome the forces of darkness.”
“I believe when we go through this whole process that at the end of the day, that I will be in every respect looked to have acted appropriately,” he said.
The Daily Caller reported late Sunday night that a long-time female escort identified Menendez as a former customer who paid for sex, and who has been an active “hobbyist” in the sex trade since at least 2008. (RELATED: Long-time escort confirms Senator Bob Menendez paid her for sex)
Allegations that Menendez has paid for sex have dogged him since TheDC interviewed two Dominican prostitutes in November who also identified the New Jersey Democrat as a man they were paid to sleep with.
A new round of prostitution allegations surfaced in late January, in the form of unconfirmed reports in a dossier of emails. Those documents included the accounts of two women who said they were 16 years old when their sexual contact with Menendez began.
The PROTECT Act of 2003, a federal law that Menendez voted for when he was a member of the House of Representatives, made it a felony for Americans to engage in illicit sex with minors anywhere in the world, even in countries where prostitution is legal and the age of consent is younger than 18. (RELATED: October 2012 “Women for Menendez” event boasted senator’s record “empowering women worldwide”)
In addition to the sex scandal swirling around him, Menendez faces an inquiry from the Senate Ethics Committee, focusing on his admitted intervention in two matters on behalf of a major donor.
In one instance, Menendez stepped in to argue with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen should not be penalized millions of dollars for allegedly overbilling the government for ocular injections.
In another, the senator reportedly lobbied fellow senators to press the government of the Dominican Republic to implement a lucrative port security contract controlled by a company Melgen owns. (RELATED: Menendez donor could see 250,000-percent return on port security investment)
Menendez also accepted at least three private jet trips to that Caribbean nation aboard Melgen’s airplane in 2010, reimbursing his donor $58,500 for two of those flights in January 2013. (The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee paid for the third.)
The nearly three years that elapsed suggest he intended to accept the travel as a gift without notifying Senate ethics officials.
The FBI raided Melgen’s South Florida office in late January. TheDC later confirmed that the bureau’s principal investigation of Menendez has moved north, to Newark.