Sen. Robert Menendez
By Hunter Walker, Business Insider
A popular conservative news site is at the center of an alleged plot by Cuban spies to smear New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez with a fake sex scandal.
Daily Caller Editor In Chief Tucker Carlson he’s is looking into a “bizarre claim” made by an attorney for Menendez that Cuban intelligence agents may have planted false stories claiming the senator had encounters with underage prostitutes on the site.
“I guess this means Menendez no longer thinks the story is part of a racist plot against him, as he initially suggested. But Cuban intelligence? It’s a bizarre claim, and self-serving, and they’ve produced no evidence of any kind to prove it. Obviously we’re skeptical, but we’re making calls right now to see what we can dig up,” Carlson told Business Insider in an email Monday night.
According to a Washington Post story published Monday, Stephen M. Ryan, a lawyer for the Democratic lawmaker, claimed U.S. officials believe agents of the Cuban government may have attempted to damage Menendez’s reputation due to his criticism of the Castro regime and position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ryan made his blockbuster claim in a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation into a possible Cuban plot to smear the senator.
Both Ryan and Menendez office did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider about the letter. A spokesperson for the FBI field office in Miami, which was reportedly looking into the initial allegations about Menendez also did not respond.
The Post noted the Cuban government has previously been accused of smearing opponents, including Menendez, with false media reports.
Accusations Menendez employed underage prostitutes at a resort in the Dominican Republic first appeared in the Daily Caller in late 2012. The first story about the scandal was written by Matthew Boyle and featured videos of women who claimed “Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100.” Boyle, who is now a reporter for Breitbart News, did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
After Boyle’s story was published ABC reported tipsters attempted to bring the videos detailing the accusations against Menendez to other media outlets prior to the Daily Caller. Menendez’s alleged contact with the prostitutes was said to have taken place while he was traveling in the Dominican Republic with a donor, a wealthy doctor named Salomon Melgen.
The Justice Department is currently investigating whether Menendez used his office to aid Melgen’s business interests. In April, new data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed Melgen collected more money from Medicare in 2012 than any other doctor in the country.
According to a Dominican prosecutor, a lawyer for the woman involved in the story later claimed he was offered money to get them to lie about Menendez on tape by a man named “Carlos” who said he worked for the Daily Caller. A man named “Carlos” briefly appeared in one of the video clips showing the women being interviewed. In March of last year, a spokeswoman for the site told ABC News the Daily Caller had no connection to anyone named “Carlos.”
Editor’s Note: Cuban Intelligence has a long history of using an intelligence technique known as “Active Measures” against U.S. politicians. Within the spy profession, Active Measures are defined as activities which use disinformation, threats, and/or violence to discredit opponents or otherwise manipulate the behavior of an individual or group.
For example, evidence presented during the trial of the Wasp Network spies revealed that the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) ordered Active Measures against no less than six U.S. political figures.
More specifically, DI headquarters ordered the Wasps to use two agents to infiltrate Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s reelection campaign. Once immersed in the campaign, the spy ring planned to publicize derogatory information to discredit, harass, or neutralize Congress’ Cuban-American contingent.
Additionally, Miami Herald journalist Gail Epstein Nieves reported on January 23, 2001 that Havana ordered the Wasp Network’s target list to focus on those officials who “COULD HAVE AN IMPACT ON FORMULATING POLICY TOWARD CUBA.” Furthermore, other Wasp communications referred to the three highly influential and strongly anti-Castro Congressional officers as “THE THREE PESTS”: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Senator Bob Menendez. Evidence also proved the DI planned to place one or more agents on the Congresswoman’s staff.
The Herald went on to note that other targets included state Senator Mario Diaz-Balart, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and Hialeah Council President Herman Echevarria. This Active Measures operation was run by Major Ramón Labañino Salazar. It was codenamed Operation Giron, after the beachhead where the Bay of Pigs invasion failed.