ABC, FBI, Menendez camp tight-lipped about senator’s brewing underage prostitution scandal
Days after documents surfaced that suggested New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez paid for sexual favors in the Dominican Republic — including some from girls as young as 16 — few in Washington are offering new clues about what appears to be an ongoing federal investigation.
The documents included emails between FBI Special Agent Regino Chavez and a Dominican source. In one email, Chavez told the source that “we have been able to confirm most of” the information he had provided about Menendez and the prostitutes. “We know that you are providing accurate information.” (RELATED: Emails show FBI investigating Menendez for sleeping with underage Dominican prostitutes)
But the FBI had no comment for Fox News on Saturday.
ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, who had Menendez on a nationally televised hot seat Sunday morning, failed to ask him about the accusations. A yes-or-no question — and a hasty denial — would likely have put the controversy to bed, or at least cast serious doubt on the authenticity or veracity of the documents that The Daily Caller first reported on Friday.
A spokeswoman for Menendez called TheDC’s story “the same unsubstantiated garbage that’s been peddled for months” Friday, in a statement to Fox News.
Menendez press secretary Tricia Enright hasn’t responded to an email TheDC sent her Saturday morning seeking additional comment.
“We substantiated the story in November with two living, breathing women who said on video that your boss paid them for sex,” TheDC wrote Enright. “For the record, are you saying that those two women are liars?” (RELATED VIDEO: Women say Sen. Bob Menendez paid them for sex in the Dominican Republic)
A high-ranking official in the government of the Dominincan Republic confirmed for TheDC in November that Menendez has been attending alcohol-fueled sex parties hosted for many years in that country by his longtime donor Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist.
Menendez, the Dominincan government official predicted just two months ago, would likely “den[y] it to try to save his political reputation.”
“In the Dominican Republic, having these kinds of affairs is very common,” the official said then.
The documents that surfaced last week include the hand-written testimony of a 19-year-old woman who alleges she had sex with Menendez when she was 16.
“In 2009 I saw Bob [Menendez] three times at least. The first one in February, and then in May and June,” she said, according to a translated transcript of an interview with the source of the documents.
“I recall his visit in June so well because that month was my 17th birthday. Then we met twice one in May 2010 and then in December 2011. … I was underage when I met him. But I can’t say for sure whether he knew it or not.”
Enright also hasn’t responded to questions about whether Sen. Menendez denies he took trips to the Dominican Republic on a private aircraft belonging to Melgen, and failed to seek approval from the Senate Ethics committee before accepting gifts of free travel.
Similarly, ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider has met questions with radio silence.
TheDC asked Schneider Saturday morning if investigative producer Rhonda Schwartz ever suspected reports from her Dominican source weren’t genuine, if she was pressured by the network to drop the story, if she ever got confirmation from the FBI that an investigation was underway, and if she ever traveled to the Dominican Republic to investigate.
Schwartz, who was tipped off about Menendez in May 2012 but never produced a story on the scandal for ABC, has previously referred questions to Schneider. “I’m not going to say anything. I’m not confirming anything,” she told TheDC last week.
Her ABC colleague Martha Raddatz, guest hosting “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” conducted a six-minute interview with Menendez on Sunday morning. Raddatz asked him about immigration policy; about outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony related ot the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya; about former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s chances of being confirmed as secretary of defense; and about a likely 2014 U.S. Senate showdown in New Jersey between Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Newark Mayor Corey Booker.
Similarly, on the Sunday following his Nov. 6 re-election, Menendez appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Host Candy Crowley failed to ask him about the prostitution scandal that had erupted just ten days earlier.
Instead, Crowley questioned Menendez about former CIA Director David Petraeus’ affair with journalist Paula Broadwell.
Menendez, who is expected to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee after Sen. John Kerry becomes Secretary of State, may feel his first international pressure on the job from London’s Daily Mail newspaper, which published its own account of the 59-year-old senator’s brewing scandal on Friday.
As with TheDC, Special Agent Chavez declined to comment to the British news outlet.