Cuban Government Tried to Smear U.S. Senator With Stories of Underaged Prostitutes

Did right-wing news outlets push Cuban propaganda in order to smear a Democratic United States senator?

Back in 2012, the conservative Daily Caller published shady claims the Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the only Cuban-American Democrat in the Senate, had contact with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. Now the CIA has evidence linking the false claims to the Cuban government.

According to the Washington Post, Menendez's attorneys have sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the claim. The CIA is said to have evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking efforts to plant the fake story in the media to Cuban operatives.

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The CIA believes the Cubans concocted a fake tipster named "Pete Williams" who informed the FBI that Menendez had participated in poolside sex parties with underaged prostitutes at the Dominican Republican home of Salomon Melgen, a wealthy friend and donor of Menendez.

The claims were eventually published in the Daily Caller, and came when Menendez was running for re-election and was slated to become the head of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. (Menendez won reelection anyway and assumed the post.) The FBI and traditional news outlets could never confirm the story, and eventually women quoted in the DC story admitted they had been paid to lie.

"It is deeply disturbing that a foreign government whose intelligence service is an enemy of the United States might try to influence U.S. foreign policy by discrediting an elected official who is an opponent of the Cuban regime," Menendez's attorney Stephen Ryan wrote in an April letter to the Justice Department.

Though, the Washington Post notes, there was "no indication that the information gathered by U.S. intelligence officials alleging Cuba's role in the Menendez case had been fully investigated or proved."

Whatever the case, it's certainly embarrassing for right-wing media outlets and Republicans pushing the story that they very well may have been trafficking in Cuban propaganda designed to bring down an anti-Castro hardliner.

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