Earlier this month, as media reports and court documents in the Dominican Republic began to debunk the prostitution allegations that had been swirling around him, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) took a moment to remind reporters about the “nameless, faceless, anonymous sources” involved in pushing the story. Well, we now have the face of one of the sources. Or at least three-quarters of his face.A Dominican attorney told investigators in the Dominican Republic last week that a man named “Carlos,” who said he worked for The Daily Caller, had approached him last fall with a proposal. “Carlos,” the lawyer said, had offered him $5,000 for his help finding young women to claim that they had been paid to have sex with the New Jersey Democrat.
The lawyer, Melanio Figueroa, has been at the center of the prostitution allegation claims all along. The original Daily Caller story in November, which featured video of interviews with the young women, identified Figueroa as the women’s attorney, and said he was present during the interviews. In recent weeks, Figueroa has started giving conflicting public statements about the story. (He also, according to a district attorney in the Dominican Republic, told investigators that Telemundo, Univision, and CNN en Espanol had approached him for help finding the women.) But this “Carlos” character, it turns out, was familiar to the folks at ABC News.
On Friday, after media outlets had picked up the story of Figueroa’s new testimony, ABC News’s investigative unit published a story reporting that a man who went by the name “Carlos” appeared briefly on camera during an interview ABC News did last year with the women making the claims about Menendez. Unlike The Daily Caller, ABC News held off on reporting the women’s claims because of doubts about their identity and veracity. In its story Friday, ABC News said that, last year, Figueroa had described “Carlos” as an associate in charge of setting up the interviews via Skype, and did not mention The Daily Caller. But when ABC News asked one of the women about “Carlos,” she replied that, “[h]e says he works for a newspaper or something like that.”
As TPM has previously reported, ABC News exchanged emails last year with a shadowy tipster who went by the name “Peter Williams” and who was pushing the Menendez-prostitution story to a government ethics watchdog and the FBI. In its story Friday, however, ABC News said it was introduced to Figueroa and “Carlos” by a “Republican operative who insisted on anonymity.” It was unclear whether or not ABC News meant the operative was “Peter Williams.”
The Daily Caller, which published a story on Friday reporting and refuting Figueroa’s latest claims, updated its story after ABC News put out its report. In the update, The Daily Caller said it had “learned that a man who identified himself as ‘Carlos’ to ABC News was also the translator — provided by Figueroa — who appeared in TheDC’s late-October interviews.”
“At no time did TheDC offer to compensate that individual,” Daily Caller senior online editor Vince Coglianese wrote. “Following the interview, The Daily Caller independently verified the translations.”
So who is Carlos? Investigators in the Dominican Republic are asking the same question. ABC News has published a still shot from the interviews that shows part of his face. And his voice can apparently be heard in the video included with The Daily Caller’s original story from November. But so far, that’s all we know. If anybody recognizes “Carlos” from the photograph, let us know.