Those who do set the allegations in context find themselves in a thorny predicament. CNN recently sent Drew Griffin to Santo Domingo to investigate the Menendez affair. After knocking on the door of a brothel, which presumably has some connection to the Menendez case—and having it shut in his face—Griffin explains that no one, including the FBI, has been able to confirm the anonymous emailer’s account:

It appeared the matter was pretty much dropped until more emails began arriving. The author, someone calling himself Peter Williams, even wrote to a CNN reporter last month… CNN responded asking Peter Williams to meet us anywhere, even here in Santo Domingo, to give us proof that any of his allegations were true. We have since sent six emails to P. Williams. The response? Silence.

It’s a striking moment of journalistic candor. Griffin is essentially telling viewers that the allegations, which had been dismissed as unfounded, were later deemed worthy of coverage—merely because they kept circulating. Never mind that the evidence was (in CNN’s words) “skimpy” or that the tipster’s MO had only grown shadier.

At another point in the segment, Griffin pointedly wonders whether the sexual allegations could be “one big slander campaign aimed at baiting a scandal-hungry press into saying or printing the name of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, teenage prostitution, and Caribbean sex parties all in one sentence.” Good question. Maybe he should have asked it before banging on a brothel door with a camera crew in tow.

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Mariah Blake writes for the United States Project, CJR's politics and policy desk. She is based in Washington, DC, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, Salon, The Washington Monthly, and CJR, among other publications.