By Justin Sink
A woman cited in documents released by a watchdog group accusing Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) of soliciting prostitutes during a trip to the Dominican Republic denied ever having been a sex worker or having met the New Jersey lawmaker in an interview with Univision.
The woman, 21-year-old Yaneisi Fernandez, was named in a series of e-mails sent by a man who claimed to have testimony from women who said they participated in sex parties at the house and on the yacht of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a south Florida ophthalmologist and longtime Menendez friend. But asked about the accusations, Fernandez firmly denied any involvement.
"I've never participated in those activities, I don't know those people or that man," Fernandez told Univision.
"No, that is completely false. I don't even know that man. Not even through TV have I seen him," she said.
For his part, Menendez has vehemently denied ever having solicited prostitutes, and accused The Daily Caller — a conservative website that first reported the prostitution allegations — of a politically motivated attack. But the New Jersey senator did admit to having flown three times on a plane owned by Melgen, a donor to his campaign who is now under FBI investigation.
Menendez is facing a Senate ethics probe into two of those flights, for which he had originally not compensated Melgen. Last week, Menendez wrote a personal check for $58,500 to cover the two flights after the complaint was filed with the Ethics committee.
“Sen. Menendez has traveled on Dr. Melgen’s plane on three occasions, all of which have been paid for and reported appropriately,” said Menendez’s office in a statement. “Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically motivated right-wing blog and are false.”
That one of the women cited in the report denied the allegations is likely to aid Menendez in avoiding long-term political fallout. An official working for Menendez told CNN the video was "pretty damning to those who continue to peddle" the prostitution charges.
"Real people get hurt," the official added.