New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez was supposed to skate to a relatively easy victory in November, but recent polling indicates that the Democrat might not be the lock his party desperately needs him to be to have any chance at winning the Senate.
Amid scandalous accusations that make those against Brett Kavanaugh look tame, the embattled senator is up by only 5-points in recent polling over his Republican challenger, Bob Hugin. In a series of ads, Hugin has been hitting Menendez where it hurts — and using the senator’s own statements and the words of his fellow Democrats against him.
“It’s right here in this shocking FBI affidavit,” says the narrator in an ad Hugin pushed out following Menendez’s criticism of the FBI’s Kavanaugh investigation. “President Obama’s Justice Department had evidence that for several years, Senator Menendez had been traveling to the Dominican Republic to engage in sexual activity with prostitutes – some of whom were minors.”
Menendez has adamantly denied the allegations, calling them part of a smear campaign against him. Fox News provides some context:
Prosecutors declined to bring charges related to the prostitution claims, though they did pursue a bribery case against him. A mistrial was declared last year after the jury failed to reach a verdict in that case.
In 2015 court papers, prosecutors said the FBI investigated Menendez and donor Salomon Melgen after being presented “with specific, corroborated allegations” they had sex with underage prostitutes, though they decided against bringing any charges on those claims. (Melgen was later convicted in a separate Medicare fraud case, and sentenced to 17 years in prison.)
“Presented with specific, corroborated allegations that defendants Menendez and Melgen had sex with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, the Government responsibly and dutifully investigated those serious allegations,” the papers stated, in response to claims from the defendants that the allegations were “false” and tainted the case.
But Hugin’s campaign suggests that the standards presented by Democrats, including Menendez, during the Kavanaugh circus require that we believe the allegations of all women and take an FBI investigation with a grain of salt. Hugin introduced the first ad by highlighting his opponent’s hypocrisy about believing all women and disbelieving the FBI.
“Bob Menendez is a hypocrite. Last week, he called for all women to be believed. But he claims that no one should believe the underage women who accused him. The public has a right to know all the facts about the FBI investigation of @SenatorMenendez and decide for themselves,” he wrote in the caption for one ad.
Hugin’s campaign also worked in statements from Menendez’s fellow Democrats, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Cory Booker, for added effect. Below are three of the ads: