Patterico's Pontifications

3/14/2013

I Ask Again: When the Washington Post Whitewashed the Menendez Scandal, Was That Rathergate II?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:39 pm



On March 7, I wrote a post titled Is the Washington Post Story on Menendez Rathergate II? The post criticized “the flawed Washington Post story purporting to debunk the Daily Caller pieces on Menendez.” In the post, I said: “We can’t lose sight of this: it could be the next Rathergate.”

Tonight, I am feeling rather prescient. Tonight, the question arises: are we possibly looking at one of the most embarrassing moments in journalism in years?

Those who have followed the Menendez story will recall the WaPo story in question. Carol Leonnig and Ernesto Londoño breathlessly reported that they had found one of the hookers interviewed by the Caller, who said she had made up the story about having sex with Menendez in the Dominican Republic.

The article repeatedly referred to “affidavits obtained by The Washington Post.” Remember that fact: it will become important.

The WaPo story had a giant pile of journalistic flaws. They had the wrong hooker: the person they talked to had never talked to the Caller. Worse, the paper stealth-corrected that mistake without acknowledging error. Even worse, the paper had claimed to contact Tucker Carlson before publication, but he says they lied.

All bad enough! But the potentially Rathergate-ish aspect of the story emerged when a Twitter user said he had found the curious affidavit that the paper had apparently used as a linchpin of their story. As I said on March 7:

[T]he affidavit they relied on? I’m just saying, that thing seems suspect.

Somehow I think we haven’t heard the last of this story. Keep it in the forefront of your mind.

In comments to the post, a commenter said: “It’s not Rathergate, because there are no forged documents involved, detectable by clever analysis.” To which I replied:

Are you quite sure of that?

He said with a small but confident smile.

Always trust content from Patterico.

Tonight, the Daily Caller reports some verrrrry questionable aspects of that affidavit. The information comes rather deep in an item that confirms a Washington Post story that ran earlier tonight, revealing that there is a grand jury investigation into Menendez. That’s news, I guess, but to me the interesting stuff comes way down in paragraph 11, where the Caller tells us:

TheDC has been unable to confirm that the woman, who gave her name in the affidavit as Nexis de los Santos Santana, actually exists. She did not attend the March 4 press conference where the affidavit was first presented.

In the affidavit, Nexis de los Santos Santana’s voter ID number — what Dominicans call a cedula — was presented as an 11-digit number. Dominican cedulas have 12 digits.

Using the Dominican government’s online voter registration database to insert the digits 0 through 9 in each of the possible places where a digit may have been missing, TheDC was unable to identify any voters who reside in the Vista Catalina neighborhood of the city of La Romana — the area where the affidavit said de los Santana resides.

They’re not done. The mysteries continue:

In addition, the street on which she claimed to reside does not exist in any of more than a dozen maps TheDC has examined. Multiple sources on the ground in the Dominican Republic have been unable to locate that street, where the affidavit said de los Santos resides in a house with no number.

TheDC attempted to contact Miguel Galván, a Dominican attorney who filed his own affidavit alongside the de los Santos document and vouched for her with the Dominican press. A secretary at his office promised to call TheDC with a number where Galván could be reached, but she did not provide it. Upon hearing it was TheDC requesting the information, she replied only, “Ohhh.”

Hmmmmm.

Now, the Daily Caller is a Very Restrained and Reserved Organization, and so they’re not going to come right out and say the Washington Post got suckered, Dan Rather style.

But I don’t mind asking, with wide innocent eyes: it’s kind of looking that way, isn’t it?

UPDATE: By the way, it should be noted that even if the affidavit is a fake, that does not necessarily mean that the Daily Caller story is true. The debunking of the Daily Caller story could be, as the phrase goes, “fake but accurate.”

UPDATE x2: Twitchy.com raises some interesting questions about this whole thing, suggesting that perhaps the Caller did interview the woman that the WaPo interviewed, but that she used a different name. It would seem that the Caller would know, at a minimum, if the woman who calls herself “Michelle” in this Brian Ross report is the same “Michelle” the Caller interviewed. If it is, they should say so, no? (And if it isn’t, they should say so.)

None of this excuses taking an affidavit from “Nexis de los Santos Santana” as gospel, if it turns out to be fake. It does suggest that the whole thing is quite murky and deserves some light, no matter where that light points. Journalism must be about the truth, no matter what the truth reveals.

UPDATE x3: Final word on this for now: ABC News’s conclusion rests on two basic points: 1) the women’s stories seemed rehearsed, and 2) “A Dominican official familiar with the case” claims that the woman interviewed by ABC News (and presumably the Caller) is the same woman in the affidavit.

Point #1 is subjective. Point #2 sort of depends on the credibility of the “Dominican official familiar with the case,” doesn’t it? So who is that?

39 Responses to “I Ask Again: When the Washington Post Whitewashed the Menendez Scandal, Was That Rathergate II?”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. The same journ-O-listas who tried to dismiss the John “Breck Girl” Edwards allegations about a mistress and a love child because the Enquirer broke the story is still covering itself in glory, I see.

    Steve57 (60a887)

  3. layer and layers of fact checkers…

    redc1c4 (403dff)

  4. I’m leaning towards the WaPo doing this on their own. If the prostitute and affidavit were put forth by Menendez or one of his cronies I would imagine they would go to much greater lengths to have all the bits and pieces check out. After all, they wouldn’t want to be exposed in a cover-up should the WaPo do any of its own fact checking. The WaPo, on the other hand, has the fall back position of being their own fact checkers. But now Tucker and the DC kids are in the position of telling the WaPo to “show me the money.” And it looks like in this case the WaPo is bankrupt.

    Ralph Gizzip (5ab3ea)

  5. How did WaPo hook up with Miguel Galván?

    SarahW (b0e533)

  6. Carol Leonnig and Ernesto Londoño, remember them, it won’t be long before they’re mentioned in the same sentence along with Susan Rice.

    ropelight (d850a8)

  7. Our esteemed host has missed it. Rathergate had a real, identifiable target in Dan Rather, a very famous person who was the face of CBS News at the time. It wasn’t just CBS News putting forth a false story, one designed to change the 2004 presidential election, but it was very publicly Dan Rather personally.

    Now, who is the famous person — meaning: well known to more than a few hundred thousand people — on whom WaPogate can be hanged? Where is the man, known by face and name to a couple hundred million people, on whom our host’s ire can be focused? Other than Bob Woodward, who hasn’t been involved in this story, how many Washington Post reporters can at least a million people name?

    Said person does not exist, of course, and without that famous name to attach to whatever this scandal develops to be, nothing of any significance will happen. Some second-tier reporter might just find himself hoping to get a job at the Lexington Herald-Leader, and perhaps a previously relied-upon research assistant might find himself hoping that the added costs of ObaminableCare doesn’t keep him from getting that job at Five Guys on I Street, but that’ll be about the extent of it.

    The journalist Dana (3e4784)

  8. Dana, the Rather analogue is the face of WaPo. If the paper falsifies, deliberately, its reporting to control news, people can’t look at it the same way – unless it extirpates the cancer very thoroughly at once.

    SarahW (b0e533)

  9. Is not Galván related to Melgen?

    JD (4bb5d1)

  10. I see, it’s Vinicio Castillo Seman, the “connected” Dominican lawyer who is the cousin of Melgen(and involved in the case featuring the affidavit); Galvan is a lawyer working on the same case that initiated by Castillo.

    SarahW (b0e533)

  11. UPDATE: By the way, it should be noted that even if the affidavit is a fake, that does not necessarily mean that the Daily Caller story is true. The debunking of the Daily Caller story could be, as the phrase goes, “fake but accurate.”

    Patterico (9c670f)

  12. They all seem like hideously corrupt thugs. Ewww.

    Dip Menendez and his eye doctor pal in a little vinegar all these crazy parasites would wriggle out.

    SarahW (b0e533)

  13. Limitations of prostitute credibility in a place where corruption is rampant accepted. Was accepted when DC put out the story.

    It’s more the attachment to the corrupt doctor and M’s pattern of travel that backed up the partytime excellent lowlife aspects. And while the vanity and depravity of carnal indulgence would be a clue to a character unfit for office, it’s more the improper favors and influence peddling that decide he is unfit.

    SarahW (b0e533)

  14. UPDATE x2: Twitchy.com raises some interesting questions about this whole thing, suggesting that perhaps the Caller did interview the woman that the WaPo interviewed, but that she used a different name. It would seem that the Caller would know, at a minimum, if the woman who calls herself “Michelle” in this Brian Ross report is the same “Michelle” the Caller interviewed. If it is, they should say so, no? (And if it isn’t, they should say so.)

    None of this excuses taking an affidavit from “Nexis de los Santos Santana” as gospel, if it turns out to be fake. It does suggest that the whole thing is quite murky and deserves some light, no matter where that light points. Journalism must be about the truth, no matter what the truth reveals.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  15. “…..no matter where that light points. Journalism must be about the truth, no matter what the truth reveals.”

    Liberal publications CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

    Rovin (47f04d)

  16. There’s one thing I don’t get. Maybe it’s jut the anemia talking, but I’m confused about Galvan and whose side he’s on and whom he has vouched for.

    I thought he was the one who hooked up the ABC interviews with the accusations (that ABC did not air bc of credibility concerns)

    But now he’s backing up Los Nexis Rosannadannas retractions? He vouched for her affidavit claiming bribes?

    Help me. I’m confused.

    From NPR, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=173649798

    Castillo, who is also the son of a presidential adviser and the brother of a member of the Dominican congress, complained to Dominican police about published reports that he had hosted raunchy outings on his yacht for Menendez. Castillo has said the allegations were “false and defamatory.”

    Castillo this week released the sworn testimony of Nexis de los Santos Santana, 23, who recanted what she said were her earlier claims in a video that she had been hired for sex by Menendez and Melgen. De los Santos Santana said in the new sworn statement that she had never met Menendez but fabricated the accusations under pressure from a local Dominican lawyer, whom she identified in the affidavit as Melaneo Figueroa.

    Figueroa did not respond to messages left by The Associated Press by phone and at his office, but he told The New York Times that he was not involved in any plot to smear Menendez and Melgen. He told the newspaper that de los Santos Santana and another lawyer in the case, Miguel Galvan, were “making accusations against me when I didn’t do anything that they are saying.”

    But at Twitchy, here:

    The escort, Nexis de los Santos Santana, 23, said in an affidavit she was hired by lawyer Miguel Galvan to do a taped interview with journalists in mid-October. Galvan explained to her that a false account was needed for a divorce case. De los Santos said she was surreptitiously taped implicating Menendez, Melgen and prominent Dominican lawyer Vinicio Castillo Selmán, Melgen’s cousin, in hiring prostitutes.

    But above in the top post:

    TheDC attempted to contact Miguel Galván, a Dominican attorney who filed his own affidavit alongside the de los Santos document and vouched for her with the Dominican press. A secretary at his office promised to call TheDC with a number where Galván could be reached, but she did not provide it. Upon hearing it was TheDC requesting the information, she replied only, “Ohhh.”

    SarahW (b0e533)

  17. UPDATE x3: Final word on this for now: ABC News’s conclusion rests on two basic points: 1) the women’s stories seemed rehearsed, and 2) “A Dominican official familiar with the case” claims that the woman interviewed by ABC News (and presumably the Caller) is the same woman in the affidavit.

    Point #1 is subjective. Point #2 sort of depends on the credibility of the “Dominican official familiar with the case,” doesn’t it? So who is that?

    Patterico (9c670f)

  18. Shorter: Was Galvan involved in advance and retraction of the prostitute interviews?

    SarahW (b0e533)

  19. You may be onto something, SarahW.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  20. Even coached witnesses may tell truth, but it means another hand wants to protect a certain way of telling.

    The affidavit hardly means anything if she swears to false ID and address. If she ever did swear.

    SarahW (b0e533)

  21. Could it be her name is really Dee Dee and she’s only 16 and can’t answer questions because she’s hospitalized?

    ropelight (d850a8)

  22. Hookers are people too. Why would you not trust their words, especially if they are getting paid? Do not judge them.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  23. One could probably get a Dominican hooker to say anything for $10,000. It would be fairly easy for a Senator to bribe her into saying she made it up.

    We know with some degree of certainty that he actually went there due to the plane flights. Depending on how long the hotel keeps surveillance video, we should be able to see who he was with, for a large enough bribe.

    crosspatch (6adcc9)

  24. There now appears to be a Terry McAuliffe connection in this story.
    I’ll venture that Cuccinelli’s election-staff are going to be all over this.

    askeptic (b8ab92)

  25. Comment by Ralph Gizzip (5ab3ea) — 3/15/2013 @ 3:58 am

    If the prostitute and affidavit were put forth by Menendez or one of his cronies I would imagine they would go to much greater lengths to have all the bits and pieces check out.

    Not if they couldn’t do any better, at least without breaking a lot of laws.

    After all, they wouldn’t want to be exposed in a cover-up should the WaPo do any of its own fact checking.

    This is the mistake people make. They think coverups need to be more elaborate than they really do. They needed to get this story to run in the Washington Post and other major media outlets. These outlets are just not going to dream it’s that much of a bluff. Once it runs, whose going to work on the original story?

    At most, they only needed to get Harry Reid, who’s looking for something like that, to take it seriously, to get certain media outlets to run with it.

    There was a whole PR campaign there. A big press conference. The DOminican lawyer looked established. Who’s going to dream it’s all a big bluff?

    It was presented as a complete refutation, which it wasn’t anyway, even at face value.

    And it is not so easily traceable to Menendez or his cronies.

    So if it doesn’t work, he’s no worse off, and if it slows people down, he’s better off.

    And the lawyer is not so bad off either. Where does he need to maintain a reputation? He’s practicing in the Dominican Republic. Is he going to give another press conference for the U.S. media again? And he can claimed to be fooled anyway.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  26. It seems like somebody was very interested in preventing anyone ever from being prosecuted for filing a false affidavit, or the lawyer or the notary getting into trouble. (even if the chances are remote)

    In the affidavit, Nexis de los Santos Santana’s voter ID number — what Dominicans call a cedula — was presented as an 11-digit number. Dominican cedulas have 12 digits.

    A lot of people wouldn’t know that. Not in the United States. That took time to catch.

    Q. Why 11 and not 10 or 8? A. So you could say it was an error more easily, and it wouldn’t be too easily noticeable that it was a digit short.

    Using the Dominican government’s online voter registration database to insert the digits 0 through 9 in each of the possible places where a digit may have been missing,

    That’s 10 x 12 = 120. That little part is a little like Rathergate, but what it is proving is not forgery, but contemporary falsehoods. Something a little bit different.

    TheDC was unable to identify any voters who reside in the Vista Catalina neighborhood of the city of La Romana — the area where the affidavit said de los Santana resides.

    Another indication it’s a fake name. And the whole point of this was that the woman was supposedly using her legal name and address.

    There was an address, bit it was nonexistant.

    A fake address difficult to check:

    the street on which she claimed to reside does not exist in any of more than a dozen maps TheDC has examined. Multiple sources on the ground in the Dominican Republic have been unable to locate that street,

    That leaves pretty small chances.

    where the affidavit said de los Santos resides in a house with no number.

    A house with no number makes it harder to check.

    There probably are some other clues. The affidavit also did not jibe with what was on the video.

    I suppose the lawyer has not come forward to explain, and is not taking any questions..

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  27. Comment by crosspatch (6adcc9) — 3/15/2013 @ 9:27 am

    .One could probably get a Dominican hooker to say anything for $10,000. It would be fairly easy for a Senator to bribe her into saying she made it up.

    That’s not whjat happened. They found a totally different person who may not be a prostitute at all, to say she was coached. But also she was videotaped without her knowledge. ???

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  28. 16. Comment by SarahW (b0e533) — 3/15/2013 @ 7:33 am

    There’s one thing I don’t get. Maybe it’s jut the anemia talking, but I’m confused about Galvan and whose side he’s on and whom he has vouched for.

    I thought he was the one who hooked up the ABC interviews with the accusations (that ABC did not air bc of credibility concerns)

    But now he’s backing up Los Nexis Rosannadannas retractions? He vouched for her affidavit claiming bribes?

    Help me. I’m confused.

    It’s elementary.

    Don’t you see? Galvin came up with some obviously fake claims about Menendez in October prostitutes in order so that ABC would reject the story before the election!!

    ABC talked to different “prostitutes” than the Daily Caller did.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  29. Galvin came up with some obviously fake claims about Menendez in October by self-professed prostitutes

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  30. I could have told them never to trust hispanic chicks.

    Dan Rather (edc032)

  31. Point #2 sort of depends on the credibility of the “Dominican official familiar with the case,” doesn’t it? So who is that?

    Her pimp?

    Well, now we know where Dan Rather is moonlighting, don’t we? (/snark)

    Bill M (e0a4e5)

  32. I sense the hand of Saudi intelligence.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  33. No, it’s Dominican drug gangs.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  34. #27

    They found a totally different person who may not be a prostitute at all, to say she was coached.

    Maybe. See update 2x and update 3x

    crosspatch (49bf90)

  35. It seems like the primary defense in all of this is to allow the MFM to ignore this, and to muddy the waters as much as possible.

    JD (4bb5d1)

  36. Prosecutors who have impaneled Grand Juries just love people who try to muddy the waters.

    askeptic (b8ab92)

  37. I bet that when they find Nexis de los Santos Santana’s voter ID number, they’ll also find Fausto Carmona’s birth certificate.

    scott (b8618e)

  38. 30. I could have told them never to trust hispanic chicks.

    Comment by Dan Rather (edc032) — 3/15/2013 @ 11:54 am

    You just have to know how to handle ’em.

    Rico! Suave!

    Steve57 (60a887)

  39. Looks like the sex scandle thing may have been hoax after all. Here’s a AP story quoting the DR police stating that the women who leveled the original accusations were paid. I think the sex scandal angle has really distracted from the financial improprieties.

    http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/03/3_women_were_paid_to_say_they.html

    time123 (bec298)


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