WASHINGTON — Sen. Robert Menendez said Monday that allegations that he engaged with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic are false "smears." He said he has done nothing wrong and that allegations otherwise are "totally unsubstantiated."
"It's amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a website can drive that type of story into the mainstream," Menendez, D-N.J., told reporters, his voice rising with anger. "But that's what they've done successfully. Now nobody can find them, no one ever met them, no one can talk to them, but that's where we're at."
"The bottom line is all of those smears are absolutely false," he added in his first public remarks since the allegations started spreading on Wednesday.
That was after the FBI conducted a search of the West Palm Beach offices of a Florida ophthalmologist who also was the senator's biggest political donor in his re-election campaign last year. A week before the November election, the Daily Caller, a conservative website, reported that Menendez had used a business jet owned by Dr. Salomon Melgen to fly to the Dominican Republic for trysts with prostitutes. None of the allegations have been substantiated.
The events have engulfed Menendez, 59, just as he assumed the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, succeeding former Sen. John Kerry, who resigned last week to become secretary of state. The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating the case.
Separately, a prominent lawyer in the Dominican Republic on Monday denied hosting outings on his yacht involving Menendez and prostitutes. Attorney Vinicio Castillo Seman said in Santo Domingo that he would seek a criminal investigation into the source of the reports. He called the reports "absurd."