The Miami Herald is reporting that the FBI raided the home of a West Palm Beach eye doctor who is also a donor and friend of Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ.) on Tuesday evening. Dr. Salomon Melgen, who is a prominent Democratic donor, is facing scrutiny from the IRS due to his $11.1 million owed in back taxes.
Recently allegations by source “Peter Williams,” circulated by the conservative blog The Daily Caller, have accused Menendez of sexual relations with four underage women in the Dominican Republic. These trips were allegedly funded by Melgen, and the two travelled to the Dominican Republic on his private jet. The FBI is currently investigating Menendez and Melgen based on these claims.
These claims come at a time when Menendez is rising to greater power. With the departure of Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) for the office of secretary of state, Menendez has become the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he is one of the “gang of 8” currently working on immigration reform.
The allegations are not without their detractors. Melanie Sloan, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, raised concerns about the credibility of the source, saying she is "increasingly suspicious" about the alleged facts in the case. Joe Coscarelli at New York Magazine derided the Daily Caller for its use of racial stereotypes, branding Menendez "Latin Lover," and points out that prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic. Of course, underage prostitution is not legal anywhere (by definition).
If Menendez did have sex with underage women in the Dominican Republic, this is certainly an egregious violation of his office and the law, and thus he should be prosecuted accordingly. However, the allegations currently spreading, while they must be accounted for and reported on, are no excuse for the florid racism and sensationalizing of Mendenez’s “wild sex parties” circulating alongside these accusations. As this story continues to develop, and further information from the FBI raid of Melgen’s office elucidate the validity of these claims, hopefully the reporting will refrain from characterizing Menendez in a manner that emphasizes his ethnicity. If Menendez has violated the law, it has little to do with his Latino heritage, and far more to do with the sense of entitlement that comes with the power of holding office.