Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig claimed Monday she had court documents and sources showing that a woman who alleged she was underpaid to have sex with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez fabricated the story and admitted to doing so for money. However, several discrepancies in the affidavit suggest Leonnig got the wrong girl.
“An escort who appeared on a video claiming that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) paid her for sex has told Dominican authorities that she was instead paid to make up the claims and has never met or seen the senator, according to court documents and two people briefed on her claim,” Leonnig wrote in a piece published late Monday afternoon. “The woman said a local lawyer had approached her and a fellow escort and asked them to help frame Menendez and a top donor, Salomon Melgen, according to affidavits obtained by The Washington Post.”
Leonnig identified the woman she said was recanting her allegations from a late October interview with this reporter, who was writing for The Daily Caller at the time of publication, as 23-year-old Nexis de los Santos Santana.
Both women this reporter interviewed, though, said they were 24 years old, and neither one identified herself by that name. In parts of the interviews that were not published on the Daily Caller, the two women whose faces were blurred out to protect their identities spelled out their names and provided their ages.
The woman’s affidavit claims the videotape of the Daily Caller’s interview was recorded without her knowledge or consent. The Daily Caller responded that both women consented to the presence of the webcam which captured the interview.
Leonnig quoted de los Santos denying the accusations of the women in the video: “Those are my words and that is me, but it does not reflect the truth.”
Leonnig printed this claim as unequivocal fact without checking with either this reporter or The Daily Caller to see whether de los Santos was actually one of the women interviewed by this reporter while at the Daily Caller.
Leonnig’s original story, published shortly before 5 PM EST, did not include where this affidavit came from or the identity of her soures. After the Miami Herald named Menendez donor Dr. Salomon Melgen’s cousin Vinicio Castillo Semán as a source behind these documents’ release, Leonnig updated her story with that relevant information.
The Herald‘s Marc Caputo notes this affidavit and the claims from the apparently new woman “were released by Vinicio Castillo Semán” at a Monday press conference.
In addition, Caputo reveals that Melgen’s lawyer admitted Castillo was behind the investigation which apparently yielded this affidavit. “In a statement, Melgen lawyer Kirk Ogrosky noted the matter was under investigation by officials in the Dominican Republic, which was conducted at the behest of Castillo,” Caputo wrote.
The Post and Castillo accused Dominican Republic attorney Melanio Figueroa–who represented the women who alleged they were underpaid to have sex with Menendez and was present for their interviews–of orchestrating the entire fiasco as a phony divorce case to embarrass Menendez and Melgen. The Herald reached Figueroa on Monday night, and he said those allegations are “totally false.”
“It was a case that I handled for these women and faithfully represented them for what they said,” Figueroa insisted.
Castillo is a powerful Dominican lawyer and political figure connected to Melgen and Menendez professionally and personally. He recently claimed Menendez visits the Dominican Republic at Melgen’s Casa de Campo villa on Easter of every year, contradicting the Senator’s claims that he only flew there in 2010.