By Jason Stverak, President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
This past election cycle, the mainstream media promoted the idea that the GOP engages in a “war on women.” Prominent women in the Democratic Party were able to take to the airways –often unchallenged – and spin the Republican positions on social issues as old-fashioned, sexist attitudes reminiscence of the 1950s. With the 2012 election a distant memory – the danger is real: sexploitation has reared its ugly head. The alleged culprit is a Democratic senator, and the legacy press couldn’t be more silent.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is embroiled in scandal. But if you read the New York Times or watch “NBC Nightly News,” you would never know it. Reports began surfacing last November from new media outlets – led by the Daily Caller – the New Jersey senator was allegedly engaging in sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, courtesy of the transportation and resort hospitality of a major campaign donor. The original Daily Caller investigation included an interview with two women from the Dominican Republic who told DC “they met Menendez around Easter at Casa de Campo, an expensive 7,000-acre resort in the Dominican Republic. They claimed Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100.”
Given the fact that these young ladies are engaged in an activity regarded as the ultimate degradation of women – and a sitting U.S. senator has been accused of taking advantage of their circumstances – it’s safe to say the old guard press would have been all over this story if the perpetrator were a Republican – leaving no stone un-turned to find the “Dirty Laundry” – as Sen. Menendez gets whitewashed in the spin cycle. Enter the new media outlets – turning the tide, agitating the establishment and hanging them out to dry.
The evidence against Menendez began mounting last week as it was revealed that another woman had come forward. The non-partisan government watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) received an email from another young girl from the Dominican Republic, claiming she had slept with the New Jersey Democrat. All the more troubling is that her alleged sexual encounters began when she was only sixteen years old.
Where is the outrage from women’s rights groups? Where are the demands for answers from the 16 female Democrats serving alongside Menendez in the Senate? Why do the mainstream media remain silent over the accusations?
In America one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. So when serious allegations surface, especially when they come from more than one source, the press has an obligation to investigate the matter. In a Sunday, January 27th interview on ABC’s “This Week,” not one question was asked of Menendez about the prostitutes’ allegations, despite the fact that two days earlier it had become public that the FBI was investigating the senator’s alleged misconduct. The sources are credible enough for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but apparently not for the old guard press.
Menendez’s reputed fondness for hookers is only part of the story not being covered. Last week the senator’s contributor involved in this scandal had his office raided by the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen has been flying Menendez down to the Dominican Republic, providing the luxury accommodations and supposedly supplying the ladies of the night. The raid on Melgen’s office apparently jarred the memory of the New Jersey senator who ponied up nearly $59,000 to reimburse the Florida doctor for travel expenses incurred in 2009.
If the emails, FBI investigation and government raids aren’t enough red flags for the press, an investigation by the new media publication The Washington Free Beacon uncovered last November that Dr. Melgen owes over $11 million to the IRS. Melgen’s support for Menendez began during the 1990s when he was a congressman. Since Dr. Melgen’s troubles with the IRS began – his contributions to the New Jersey Democrat have dramatically increased.
Coincidence? Or a prominent political donor seeking favors? Unless the question is asked, we won’t know the answer.
Since the FBI investigation became public, a few local newspapers in New Jersey, New York and Miami have taken an interest. But a “Google search” of the scandal links only to new media outlets. The three broadcasts networks have wiped the scandal under the rug and the New York Times has apparently decided the story doesn’t fit their motto, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”
Safe to say that if Sen. Menendez had an “R” next to his name this story would lead network broadcasts and frequent the front-page of the “paper of record.” But when you are a Democrat the legacy media and women’s rights group tend to bury their head in the sand – justice and journalism doesn’t fit their agenda.
Jason Stverak is the President of Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.