Allegations that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic were a lie, according to a young woman who signed an affidavit saying she was paid to make the false claims in the week before last year's elections.
Last fall, Republican operatives, who insisted on anonymity, helped arrange the woman's appearance, along with two additional women, in back-to-back, on-line interviews with ABC News and a conservative news website, the Daily Caller.
In the weeks before the women were presented to be interviewed, the operatives also distributed what was described as "surveillance reports" by private detectives reporting on naked pool parties at the Dominican Republic home of a Menendez friend and campaign contributor, Dr. Salomon Melgin, a Florida eye surgeon.
ABC News did not broadcast or initially report on the claims because of doubts about the women's veracity and identity.
The Daily Caller reported extensively on the claims in the week before the election, even as Menendez strongly denied them. The Senator questioned why other news outlets repeated the allegations based on anonymous sources and interviews with two of the women whose faces were obscured when shown on the conservative news site.
The woman, who was not present when her affidavit was revealed at a press conference by an attorney in the Dominican Republic Monday, said her performance last year was arranged by a Dominican lawyer who had her rehearse statements and promised to pay her well.
Early Tuesday the Daily Caller said the woman who said she was lying was not one of the women featured in their original report. However, the attorney who presented the affidavit Monday identified the woman to reporters in attendance as the female wearing a yellow shirt in a video on the Daily Caller website.
"I never slept with Mr. Menendez nor Mr. Melgin," the woman, Nexis de los Santos Santana, said in her sworn statement, adding she did not know the Senator or the doctor."So therefore I don't have any relationship of any kind with the aforementioned people."
In her interview with ABC News before the election, she said her name was Michelle Rodriguez and that she had come forward because Menendez had paid her only $100 of the $500 she had expected. She now says she was coached to make the claim.
Her account of sex with Menendez in the video interview was almost word-for-word the account given by two other women who were produced for interviews about having sex with the man they knew only as "Bob."
Asked during the interview with ABC News how she knew that the man named "Bob" was a United States Senator, one of the other women said she had put the name "Bob" into a web search site and a picture of Menendez popped up.
Menendez told reporters Monday, "I've always said that these are all false, they're smears, and so I look forward to seeing whatever the Dominican courts have that prove what I've said all along."