ABC News Passed on Menendez "Sex Scandal" Because It Couldn't Prove It. What Kind of Journalism Is That?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 5 2013 12:57 PM

ABC News Passed on Menendez "Sex Scandal" Because It Couldn't Prove It. What Kind of Journalism Is That?

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Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

After The Daily Caller reported on two Dominican prostitutes' allegations against Sen. Bob Menendez, and the mainstream media didn't run with the story, conservative wags responded in a familiar way. The problem surely wasn't with the story. The problem was with the media. After the election, as reporters gabbed about the story, we learned two things: That ABC News had been given this story and passed on it, and that New Jersey Republicans had been trying to get these goods into the hands of reporters.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

The Daily Caller reporter who had the original story, Matt Boyle, left the magazine after the election. The DC's new lead writer on the story was David Martosko. Martosko was a veteran of the libertarian PR group Berman & Co., hired by Carlson to become The DC's managing editor, filed items on every possible break in the story—including one shaming ABC News for not asking Menendez for details when they had him on the air.

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Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that one of the prostitutes sourced in the original story had recanted in an affidavit. The Daily Caller—again, familiar territory here—pushed back, arguing that the woman "does not appear to be one of the women we interviewed in 2012" and "the attorney for TheDC’s sources, has said the Post’s allegations are fabricated and that the affidavit is false."

Now comes ABC News. Turns out that it did get first crack at the story, and it passed, for reasons it's only revealing now. Chiefly, that the story smelled bogus.

Her account of sex with Menendez in the video interview was almost word-for-word the account given by two other women who were produced for interviews about having sex with the man they knew only as "Bob."
Asked during the interview with ABC News how she knew that the man named "Bob" was a United States Senator, one of the other women said she had put the name "Bob" into a web search site and a picture of Menendez popped up.

The DC denies that this woman appeared in the video; ABC names the woman, Nexis de los Santos Santana, and says she was ID'd by the attorney introducing the affadavit "as the female wearing a yellow shirt in a video on the Daily Caller website." (Drink deep of that ABC dig—"the Daily Caller website," as if it's not a real media organization.)

The DC hasn't responded to ABC News yet. Matt Boyle has tweeted a response, though:

ABC News has been holding onto interviews with alleged Menendez hookers for MONTHS.

It's a Rorschach test, isn't it? If you don't trust the Liberal Media, you assume that the Menendez story stayed stuck in the Undernews because reporters covered it up. If you trust Occam's razor, you ask why any reporters would give up a story that could bring down a senator, ask in particular why Brian Ross would (he broke the Jeremiah Wright story in 2008, when it could have brought down Barack Obama), and whether ABC News killed the story because it didn't pass scrutiny.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.