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What Univision’s alleged-hooker story didn’t say about Sen. Bob Menendez

When Univision interviewed a woman it suggested was named in a prostitution scandal tied to Sen. Bob Menendez, the Spanish-language powerhouse network didn’t disclose how it determined if this woman was even the right person.

It also didn’t note that the Yaneisi Fernandez the network spoke to didn’t match the description of one of the alleged prostitutes.

Turns out, there’s more (or less, actually) concerning Univision and Menendez: Univision Communications Inc. is a member of an organization called the United States-Spain Council, of which Menendez is an honorary chair.

The council's president: Menendez’s former aide, Pedro Pablo Permuy.

The council is also backed by a longtime Menendez donor, Salomon Melgen, whose offices were raided by the FBI last week. That raid, too, was missing from that Univision report on Fernandez. And so was the information that Menendez last month reimbursed Melgen $58,500 for freebie flights– two years after the fact.

Melgen, incidentally, runs another company that Menendez has advocated for to X-ray Dominican Republic port cargo. And Permuy looks like he’s supposed to run it. Permuy has issued a tepid denial and Menendez said he didn’t know about Permuy’s involvement, a statement one watchdog called a “howler.” Background is here

Conservative bloggers are doing howling of their own, but for different reasons. They claimed the Univision interview of Fernandez was essentially a “stupid media trick” that gave enough cover to some DC-based reporters to essentially exonerate Menendez because the young lady denied she was a hooker.*

And many saw Univision as engaging in a conspiracy because the network has virtually crusaded for liberal immigration reform, of which Menendez is a champion. Contrast that coverage with what happened to Sen. Marco Rubio in 2011 (some background here).

As for the relative lack of aggressive DC press coverage has less to do with the so-called “liberal media” (a convenient false claim of the right) and more to do with the fact that many DC reporters cover stories in a press pack and eschew stories they don’t break. It also enables some of them to sidle up to politicians in a mutual-backscratching arrangement revolving around access and news tips.

And none of this means that all reporters at Univision are in the tank for Menendez (or even that some of them are). Some are highly talented and have produced solid work. Still, it’s worth noting on the record that there are differences between the way the English-language press sometimes covers a story and the way the Spanish-language press does.

Like Univision, the Miami Herald combed the Dominican Republic to finid evidence that Menendez consorted with prostitutes, including those underage. None was found. And Menendez denies the allegations, which nevertheless helped launch and FBI investigation.

Also, it makes sense that Univision would contribute money to the United States-Spain Council. It’s composed of heavy-hitters in the Spanish-language and business worlds. And Univision is a heavy hitter. Still, when a media company supports the cause of a politician under scrutiny and then reports on the politician, questions about what it discloses and when are bound to surface.


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