Shortly before the 2012 elections, a conservative media outlet called The Daily Caller, created by Tucker Carlson, thought it had a major scoop. The far-right website claimed it had obtained evidence that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) paid for sex in the Dominican Republic. Conservative media, not surprisingly, pounced.
They soon regretted it. The Daily Caller’s report was based on flimsy evidence
, and soon after, the allegations unraveled completely — three Dominican escorts eventually admitted they were paid to lie
. The salacious story, to the great disappointment of the right, wasn’t true, and conservative media’s demands for respect and credibility had taken a big step backwards.
But a question lingered in the background: what was the origin of smear? It seemed unlikely The Daily Caller would just make it up out of whole cloth; there had to be a source for the lies. The Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig and Manuel Roig-Franzia are now able to shed some additional light
on the subject.
Sen. Robert Menendez is asking the Justice Department to pursue evidence obtained by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government concocted an elaborate plot to smear him with allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes, according to people familiar with the discussions.
In a letter sent to Justice Department officials, the senator’s attorney asserts that the plot was timed to derail the political rise of Menendez (D-N.J.), one of Washington’s most ardent critics of the Castro regime…. According to a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of government intelligence, the CIA had obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims and to efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media.
Every major media organization occasionally makes mistakes. Every news outlet sometimes has to run corrections. Everyone in journalism has, at some point in their careers, run a report they later regret.
But very few U.S. outlets earn the “We were a mouthpiece for Castro’s communist regime” label.