A Dominican woman who was recorded claiming Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) had paid her for sex now says she has never before met the senator and was paid to make the claim, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The woman says in court documents that she and a friend were paid to read from a script, in which they accuse Menendez of offering money in exchange for sex.
The videos appeared to corroborate e-mails published by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-profit watchdog group, which featured a man claiming to have testimony from three sex workers hired by Menendez. But one of the women cited in those e-mails was interviewed last month by Univision and denied having ever worked as a prostitute or having met Menendez.
“I've never participated in those activities, I don't know those people or that man,” 21-year-old Yaneisi Fernandez told the network.
The testimony obtained Monday by the Post casts further doubt upon the allegations. According to the woman who appears in the video, she and a friend were approached by a lawyer, who offered them cash to make the tape. That man has subsequently identified a third party who provided him a script and money to fabricate the claims.
Menendez has categorically denied the allegations, dismissing them as “totally unsubstantiated” and “absolutely false" in an interview last month.
“The smears that right wing blogs have been pushing since the election, that is totally unsubstantiated — it's amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a website can drive that kind of story into the mainstream,” Menendez told CNN . “But that's what they've done successfully. Now nobody can find them, nobody ever met them, nobody ever talked to them, but that's where we're at.”
Menendez still faces questions over his relationship with Melgen. Earlier Monday, the Associated Press reported that Menendez supported a natural gas bill that would have benefited a Florida energy company in which Melgen was an investor.
Earlier this year, Menendez reimbursed Melgen with $58,000 for two flights aboard his private jet that he had previously failed to report. Menendez has also acknowledged that he contacted health officials over their challenge of billing practices at Melgen's eye clinic.
In a statement, Melgen's attorney, Kirk Ogrosky, said the doctor was encouraged by the report.
"Dr. Melgen is pleased that authorities in the Dominican Republic are investigating the individuals behind this campaign of lies," Orgosky said. "Dr. Melgen is hopeful that the appropriate authorities will identify and prosecute the people who are responsible."
This story was updated at 6:16 p.m.