Some of the state’s Republican legislators aren’t panning Bob Hugin’s ad accusing U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of soliciting underage prostitutes, opting instead to let voters draw their own conclusions about the ad, which has drawn condemnation from fact checkers for its shaky foundation in facts.
“Where there’s fuel, there’s fire, so I think Mr. Menendez has put himself into these predicaments,” said Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce. “It’s now up to the public to judge whether some of this is true or some of this is wrong, but when you make your life so decorative, as he has, he jeopardizes himself. And when you’re a public official, you’re to be held to a different standard than anyone else. But, from what I’ve heard, is it fair or not? That’s up to the public to decide.”
DeCroce said she had not seen the ad but had heard about it.
The ad attempts to ascribe statements outlining allegations leveled by an anonymous tipster using the moniker “Pete Williams,” after the former U.S. senator of the same name who was convicted of bribery charges, to the FBI, selectively quoting a passage from the affidavit to make it appear as though the FBI was leveling the allegations.
“In that email and in the emails that followed, Mr. Williams alleged that, for several years, Menendez had been traveling to the Dominican Republic to engage in sexual activity with prostitutes — some of whom were minors,” the affidavit read.
Hugin’s ad leaves out the attribution to Williams, and the accusations at its core have been roundly debunked.
The allegations in the ad are nothing new. The story first surfaced in the conservative Daily Caller in 2012, when Menendez was running for reelection against former State Sen. Joe Kyrillos.
Kyrillos hit Menendez on the accusations but stopped short of attacking the senator on the airwaves when Hurricane Sandy forced a change in strategy.
“I think it’s a hard-hitting ad, and it certainly shows Hugin is more aggressive than Kyrillos in that regard,” said Assemblyman Ryan Peters, who worked for the Kyrillos campaign and was in the room during some of that campaign’s strategy discussions about the prostitute attacks. “The voters can judge that for what they will.”