Posted Friday, March 22, 2013, at 12:43 PM
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
The Washington Post's investigative team returns to the Menendez story with some incredidble skullduggery. The paper reports it in a confusing inverted pyramid sort of fashion, so I'll summarize.
- In October 2012, a Dominican lawyer named Melanio Figueroa made three women available to the Daily Caller and other news outlets, including ABC News and the New York Post. The women claimed to be prostitutes who'd slept with Sen. Bob Menendez, then been stiffed on the bill. Only the DC ran with the story.
- In early March 2013, after Menendez's reputation had been good and battered, one by one the women recanted their stories and said they'd been paid to tell them.
- This week, Melanio Figueroa has turned, telling reporters that he was offered money to concoct a story about Menendez. Actually, the DC tells this part well:
Figueroa blamed four news outlets — CNN, The Daily Caller, Telemundo and Univision — for allegedly encouraging him to fabricate false accusations about Menendez. Pressed further by investigators, Figueroa alleged that a man employed by this news site named “Carlos” offered the lawyer $5,000 to invent the prostitution allegations, according to a Thursday evening television report by Univision.
The DC denies the $5,000 charge, which makes sense, because the charge is undermined by the facts of the story. Remember, Republican operatives had been shopping this story before the election, and other outlets had tried to break it but decided that the case was too flimsy. Why would "Carlos" give Figueroa the money then shrug about the minor detail of which media outlet he should give the story to? Remember, too, that an anonymous tipster—calling himself "Pete Williams," after a New Jersey senator brought down by scandal in 1980—was asking CREW and the FBI to check into this story months before the DC ran it. I've had my run-ins with the DC, but I don't think for one second they'd pay for a story like this.
So what's Figueroa talking about? His grudge against Menendez dates back years, to a forgotten fight over political corruption allegations, and it's possible/probable that he was always pushing crap. Now that he's backing down from the story, if he can pin it on the American news organization that covered it the most, maybe he can wriggle out of it? Honestly, the whole situation is complicated by the fact that newspapers don't have bureaus in the DR, and that they don't send 31-year old political reporters to run them.