Whatever Senator Robert Menendez may have got up to with one of his biggest political donors, it seems we can strike naughty orgies with call girls in the Dominican Republic from the list.
In an unexpected turn in Washington’s newest ethics scandal, a prostitute who last autumn said she had had sex for cash with Senator Menendez at an apartment in the Dominican Republic, owned by Dr Salomon Melgen of West Palm Beach, has now said she made the whole thing up.
The development has prompted Senator Menendez – a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – to reiterate his claims that he has been the victim of a smear campaign. It also set off a tit-for-tat round of recriminations between the conservative website that first carried the prostitution claims last year, The Daily Caller, and The Washington Post, which carried the news that the prostitute had recanted.
“There are obviously some interests using right-wing blogs that have been perpetuating smears about me and I hope that all the truth comes out, because they are nothing but that – smears,” the senator declared.
But Senator Menendez remains the subject of a Senate ethics investigation seeking to establish whether he has improperly tried to use his position to help Dr Melgen’s assorted business interests in return for a $700,000 (£463,000) donation to himself and other Democrats last year.
Senator Menendez has been forced to reimburse $58,000 to the doctor for two flights on his private jet to the Dominican Republic that he had omitted to report to oversight authorities. On Monday, the Associated Press reported that he had sponsored new legislation to promote the use of natural gas in vehicle fleets that may help a company in which the doctor has invested.
The Daily Caller suggested last night that the Washington Post had erred because the prostitute now denying having had sex with the senator was not the prostitute in its original report last year. The Post stood by its reporting.
Instrumental in trying to debunk the sex orgy claims was a prominent lawyer in the Dominican Republic, Vinicio Castillo Selmán, a cousin of Dr Melgen, who had been accused of setting up and joining the orgies. The Daily Caller said that “two women said they met Menendez around Easter at Casa de Campo, an expensive 7,000-acre resort in the Dominican Republic… They claimed Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100.”
But the escort who has now come forward, identified as Nexis de los Santos Santana, 23, told the Post she was coaxed into the original videotaped statement by a lawyer in return for money. The paper pointed out that the FBI had found no evidence to support the sex claims.
“We are witnessing a perverse and criminal plot orchestrated by dark sectors of the Dominican Republic,” Mr Castillo said in a statement.