A Week Later, ABC News Considers Menendez Scandal Worth Pursuing
ABC News has apparently shifted its editorial policy and now considers the scandal surrounding New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and wealthy Democratic Party donor Dr. Salomon Melgen worth pursuing.
For six months before this reporter actually broke the story (while writing for The Daily Caller), ABC’s Rhonda Schwartz was aware of the story and was investigating. It is unclear why she decided not to write anything about the matter in a year in which Menendez faced a re-election challenge. She did not write any pieces on the scandal in the timeframe in which she was aware of it. Nor did anyone else from ABC News, until almost three months after this reporter’s November 1 story.
Schwartz finally published an article on Menendez and Melgen on January 31, nearly a year after she was first made aware of the allegations and about three months after this reporter broke them at The Daily Caller. In that piece, Schwartz blames her source’s worries about going public for her justification for holding the story for so long without printing anything about the matter.
“Earlier this week, dozens of emails between ‘Peter Williams’ and CREW, ABC News and the FBI were published on a website,” Schwartz wrote in a couple paragraphs buried at the end of the final page of her article. “Despite extensive efforts by ABC News to meet with Williams, speak with him on the phone, or verify his identity, Williams refused to come forward.”
Schwartz’s story came after the Miami Herald confirmed the existence of two FBI investigations into the matter on January 30.
Despite the Herald report about the parallel FBI investigations, Schwartz downplayed any possible connection to the Menendez scandal: “The raid appeared unrelated to recent allegations regarding Menendez's trips to Melgen's home in the Dominican Republic,” she wrote.
Since Schwartz’s piece emerged, the Senate Ethics Committee has announced it is investigating Menendez, too. “We are aware of the news reports regarding the FBI raid on Dr. Melgen's office," Senate Ethics Committee ranking GOP member Sen. Johnny Isakson told CBS. “The Ethics Committee will follow its established procedures in this matter.”
ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos finally asked a question about the matter Sunday morning on “This Week,” too. Stephanopoulos’ question of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid--one nearly identical to Breitbart News’ question of Reid almost a week earlier--came after ABC News' Martha Raddatz failed to ask Menendez himself a question during a six minute interview with the New Jersey Democrat the week before.
Stephanopoulos is a former Democratic Party operative who worked closely with former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Breitbart News detailed Melgen’s close ties to Clinton, and his wife outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, last week.
Schwartz’s first published piece on the matter also came after emails surfaced online in early January that show Miami-based Special Agent Regino Chavez hds communicated with a source who goes by the name “Peter Williams” in the Dominican Republic about the allegations that Menendez allegedly solicited prostitutes, including allegedly underage ones, in that country.
Those emails also showed Schwartz was aware of and investigating the matter since May, and that the George Soros-funded Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) was aware even earlier. Neither published any information until after those emails were made public on a blog.
CREW’s executive director Melanie Sloan stated, almost immediately after the emails’ publication, that her group was investigating and that it had tipped off the FBI. In an interview with Fox News on January 25, Sloan said CREW was no longer investigating--and she blamed the source, “Williams,” for CREW’s inaction on the matter. "He refused to ever be contacted by us by phone," Sloan said, according to Fox News. “It's really easy to make a lot of allegations. ... Who knows ... if that's even a real person.”
Sloan also said then that she was “increasingly suspicious” about the case’s facts.
Now that the scandal has caught fire after this reporter broke it and new media pushed it, Sloan has backtracked a bit. After Menendez admitted he flew on Melgen’s plane to the Dominican Republic three times in 2010--and cut a check worth as much as 18.5 percent of his entire net worth reimbursing Melgen for the flights in January 2013--Sloan said that amounts to a Senate ethics violation.
“What he did was he waited to get caught and then he paid for it,” Sloan told a New Jersey newspaper. “He did violate the rules.”
Schwartz has not published any more pieces on the matter, though. It’s unclear if she will.