The conservative website The Daily Caller created something of a stir when it reported in November 2012 that two prostitutes from the Dominican Republic had claimed that Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey had paid them for sex earlier that year. According to the Caller, Menendez had agreed to pay the two women $500 each, but ended up only giving them $100. Menendez heatedly denied the claim, saying last month, "It's amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a website can drive that type of story into the mainstream, but that's what they've done successfully."

It turns out Menendez may have had a point. According to The Washington Post, one of the escorts has come forward to claim that she was paid to make up the claims on a videotape, which was featured on the Caller's site. Carol D. Leonnig and Ernesto Londoño at the Post write:

The escort was one of two women who taped videos that seems to support a tipster's allegations that Menendez had patronized prostitutes while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.

FBI agents conducting interviews in the Dominican Republic have found no evidence to back up the tipster's allegations, according to two people briefed on their work. [Washington Post]

If true, the Post's report would bolster widespread criticisms of the online conservative press, which has been accused of manufacturing false stories to smear ideological opponents. Most recently, was criticized for running a story that linked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to "Friends of Hamas," a group that doesn't even exist. The lack of journalistic standards in the conservative media has led some prominent conservatives to warn that such ill-reported stories are self-defeating. "Conservatives are trying so hard to highlight controversies, no matter how trivial, we have forgotten the basics of reporting," Erick Erickson recently wrote at Red State. "We need to establish a baseline for integrity in reporting that then allows us to highlight the truly outrageous."

Despite the Caller's sketchy reporting, Menendez still has a lot of work to do to clear his name. The New York Times and others have reported that Menendez may have used his influence to benefit an important political benefactor, Salomon E. Melgen.