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Did Castro regime and Daily Caller combine in smear effort?

Robert Menendez is a US senator from New Jersey, a liberal Democrat and chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, who happens to be an outspoken opponent of the Castro regime in Cuba.

In November 2012, when Menendez was running for reelection, the conservative website the Daily Caller published claims by two women in the Dominican Republic that the senator had paid them for sex.

The FBI found no evidence for the allegations, and three Dominican women who originally implicated Menendez later recanted their stories.

Now evidence has emerged that the Cuban government concocted the report about Menendez and the prostitutes.

According to a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of government intelligence, the CIA had obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims and to efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media.

The alleged Cuba connection was laid out in an intelligence report provided last year to U.S. government officials and sent by secure cable to the FBI’s counterintelligence division, according to the former official and a second person with close ties to Menendez who had been briefed on the matter.

The intelligence information indicated that operatives from Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence helped create a fake tipster using the name “Pete Williams,” according to the former official. The tipster told FBI agents and others he had information about Menendez participating in poolside sex parties with underage prostitutes while vacationing at the Dominican Republic home of Salomon Melgen, a wealthy eye doctor, donor and friend of the senator.

So we have the grimly amusing situation of the “socialist” Castro regime putting out a phony story in an effort to smear one of their staunchest critics in the US, and a rightwing American website eagerly taking the bait in an effort to defeat a Democrat with an overwhelmingly liberal voting record.

Tucker Carlson, editor in chief of the Daily Caller, said in a phone interview that it would be a major shock to him if the Cuban government spooled out a story that his reporters ran with — but that it’s also a hard claim for him to verify.

“I really can’t assess it without more information,” Carlson said. “It’s bizarre on its face, but also fascinating.”

“Fascinating” is one way of putting it.