Sen. Robert Menendez either hired prostitutes in the Dominican Republic or is a victim of an elaborate scheme to frame him, according to competing stories published this week.
The Daily Caller, a Washington-based website, on early Tuesday morning posted a story saying a Washington Post piece published on Monday got it wrong when they told the story of a Dominican woman who said she was paid to lie about having sex with the Democratic senator.
The Post story appeared to refute an earlier Daily Caller posting that was based on interviews with prostitutes who said they did, in fact, have sex with Menendez and Dr. Salomon Melgen, a friend and donor to Menendez's political campaigns. The Post cited an affidavit from a Dominican woman, Nexis de los Santos Santana, 23, who says she and a similarly employed friend took money to make up and videotape false claims about Menendez paying for sex.
The woman and her friend were approached by a local lawyer who wanted to frame Menendez and Melgen, the affidavits said. Then, according to the Post account, another lawyer paid the women to read a script detailing the fake Menendez hooker allegations, while being videotaped without their consent.
But the Daily Caller says the Post has the wrong prostitute.
"The Washington Post mistook one prostitute for another Monday in a report that initially seemed to debunk a November 2012 Daily Caller exposé of New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez," the Daily Caller said, in response to the Washington Post story and widespread release of affidavits to the media.
"While the Post said it had an affidavit from a woman in the Dominican Republic admitting she fabricated claims Menendez paid her for sex, that woman was not one of the two prostitutes TheDC interviewed for a Nov. 1 report."
The Daily Caller noted that while the woman identified by the Post was said to be 23, both the women they interviewed said they were 24 at the time.
"And neither went by Nexis de los Santos Santana," the Caller wrote.
Amid the conflicting claims, Menendez on Tuesday reasserted that the allegations against him were false.
"I can only say what I said from the very beginning -- that nameless, faceless, anonymous sources through right wing blogs drove into the mainstream a story that was absolutely false, that these were smears that began during my election process, and increasingly become obvious that that's what they were: smears and an attempt to change the results of an election," the senator told Fox News. "I look forward to the Dominican authorities continuing to pursue their investigation."
De los Santos claims she was videotaped without her consent detailing false allegations. But the Miami Herald noted the women who appear in the Daily Caller videos have their faces blurred, and appear to be wearing an earpiece and responding to questions. That would appear to conflict with the claim she was "surreptitiously taped."
Her affidavit, sworn to in Dominican court, was released on Monday by attorney Vincio Castillo Seman, who is also involved in the Menendez case. Castillo, the son of a Dominican presidential adviser and the brother of a member of the country's Congress, has been accused of hosting outings on his yacht in which Menendez used the services of prostitutes.
Like Menendez, Castillo has strongly denied the allegations. He said he would seek a criminal probe into the source of the reports.
Castillo said de los Santos claims she and a friend were approached by another Dominican lawyer, Melanio Figueroa. But in an interview with The Miami Herald, Figueroa denied orchestrating the accusations against Menendez. "It was a case that I handled for these women and faithfully represented them for what they said," he said.
Figueroa is accusing another attorney, Miguel Galvan, of fabricating the latest episode.
According to the Post, the escort says Galvan originally paid de los Santos to give false testimony about Menendez and Melgen. For his part, Galvan, issued a statement reported on by the Post claiming he was misled by another attorney about the tape's purpose. Both Galvan and de los Santos are reportedly seeking immunity in court.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.