An anonymous senior United States official told the New York Times on Tuesday that there’s no evidence the Cuban government handed a false story to a conservative website in an effort to smear Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
WaPo reported that Menendez’s lawyer sent a letter to the Justice Department calling for an investigation into evidence that Cuban intelligence officials concocted the story of the senator’s alleged involvement with underage prostitutes.
The attorney said that the plot was part of an effort to derail Menendez, one of Washington’s most vocal critics of Fidel Castro’s regime.
A former U.S. official “with firsthand knowledge of government intelligence” told WaPo that the CIA had “obtained credible evidence” backing the senator’s claims.
The allegations were published by the conservative Daily Caller in November of 2012 — mere days before Menendez secured re-election — after several other outlets had passed on the story.
Even prior to this week, the Daily Caller’s reporting had been widely debunked.
Since WaPo broke the story, the conservative journalists at the center of the story have responded with defiance. Matt Boyle, the former Daily Caller reporter who authored the original story, wrote Tuesday that he had “no indications” his sources were affiliated with the Cuban government.
Boyle left the Daily Caller for Breitbart News, where he currently works, about a month after his story on the prostitution allegations ran.
The Times also reported that, despite Menendez’s claims that there were early indications of Cuba’s involvement in the allegations, the senator never raised the possibility in a letter his lawyers sent to the Justice Department in January.
Tucker Carlson, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, has not responded to TPM’s multiple requests for comment.