UNION CITY, New Jersey – Dejected fans showed up to Union City High School on a rainy Sunday to find that a scheduled Hispanic Heritage Month event featuring Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda had been canceled following Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) facing prison on charges of bribery.
Prosecutors indicted Sen. Menendez – for the second time in eight years – on Friday, revealing that federal agents had raided the senator’s home and allegedly found hundreds of thousands of dollars, gold bars, and other sensational displays of wealth. Sen. Menendez was due in Union City, where he began his political career as mayor, on Sunday for the annual Hispanic Heritage Event celebration he holds for constituents. His son, Rep. Rob Menendez (D-NJ), currently represents the city in Congress. Mayor Brian Stack of Union City has long supported the senator – even against criticism from former President Barack Obama – though he began his political career in the 1990s challenging the political machine Sen. Menendez had built there.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, a longtime activist for Democrat Party causes and avid supporter of President Joe Biden, was scheduled to appear at the event as its keynote speaker. Miranda is from the greater area and debuted on Broadway with the play In the Heights, set in the Hispanic community of neighboring Washington Heights, Manhattan. Like Washington Heights, Union City’s population is overwhelmingly Hispanic and working class.
Miranda campaigned for both Biden and failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In 2016, he wrote Clinton a rap song reading in part, “Hillary makes each decision/Looking at the world from a rarefied position/A public servant with tenacity, agility/Mi gente, experience is not a liability.”
His most successful musical, Hamilton, reportedly qualified to receive at least $30 million in federal post-pandemic aid, according to the New York Times, despite raking in an estimated $650 million in revenue.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) July 12, 2016
“It is an incredible honor to welcome Lin-Manuel Miranda to New Jersey and to celebrate his accomplishments as we uplift the stories of the Latino community,” Sen. Menendez said in announcing the event on September 19. “Lin-Manuel’s contributions to the performing arts are as rich as they are numerous. His works have highlighted not only history, but also the people and stories that make our nation so beautiful.”
The event was canceled so abruptly that some planning to attend showed up on Sunday, only to find the high school empty. Miranda has yet to comment on the situation publicly at press time.
The New York area outlet Pix 11 found two such fans, Unique Bacote and her mother Sandralis Rivera, standing under the rain in front of the closed doors of the school.
“We came here in our Hispanic heritage stuff,” Rivera said, pointing to their festive clothing. “We were excited.”
“It’s a community event that a lot of Hispanics look forward to, so it’s unfortunate that his personal issues got in the way of this event happening,” Bacote lamented.
The event would have been Sen. Menendez’s first public appearance since being indicted on Friday. Instead, Menendez is expected to address the charges on Monday morning at a press conference at Hudson County Community College, up Kennedy Boulevard from the high school and also in Union City. Rumors prior to the confirmation of the press conference suggested that Sen. Menendez was struggling to find a venue that would hold the event.
Standing by in a jam packed room Union City, NJ@SenatorMenendez will make his first comments since his most recent bribery indictment, which alleges he accepted "cash, gold bars, payments toward a home mortgage…" & more.
He said Friday he would not resign. pic.twitter.com/AjyIB1eza9
— Henry Rosoff (@HenryRosoff) September 25, 2023
Following the indictment on Friday, Sen. Menendez denied guilt in the case and accused “those behind this campaign,” without elaborating, of discrimination against Hispanic Americans.
“The excesses of these prosecutors is apparent. They have misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office,” Sen. Menendez said in a statement. “Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator and serve with honor and distinction.”
Sen. Menendez ominously added, “Even worse, they see me as an obstacle in the way of their broader political goals.”
Sen. Menendez has served in Congress since 1993, first in the Congressional seat currently held by his son, then being appointed to the Senate in 2006 following former Governor Jon Corzine’s election to the executive position, leaving a vacancy.
In the Senate, he has consistently challenged the foreign policy of Democrats under former President Barack Obama and current President Joe Biden. Menendez was especially critical of Obama’s failed Iran nuclear deal, which granted Iran access to tens of billions of dollars it would then use to fund terrorism throughout the Middle East. Obama responded to the criticism by accusing Sen. Menendez in 2015, without naming him, of letting “special interests” cloud his judgment, a comment Sen. Menendez said he took “personal offense” to.
Democrats close to Biden, including former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder and radical leftist New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, have demanded Sen. Menendez resign. Former Obama staffer Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) announced he would run against Sen. Menendez in the upcoming Democrat primary this weekend.