DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I should give you the context here in that Senator Menendez clearly now wanted to talk.
He came out off of the Senate floor to talk to reporters in an area where cameras are not permitted. But he wanted to talk to us apparently. We had a camera down on the floor where we could have one. I asked him to come with me. He walked all the way from the second floor of the Capitol to the first floor of the Capitol to answer questions and here's how it went.
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BASH: Senator, if you can explain why it took so long to pay back almost $60,000 in flights that you took with your friend?
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, I was in a big travel schedule in 2010 as the chair of the DSCC, plus my own campaign getting ready for a reelection cycle, and in the process of all of that, it unfortunately fell through the cracks that our processes didn't catch -- moving forward, and making sure that we paid.
When it came to my attention that payment had not taken place, I personally paid for them in order to meet my obligation.
BASH: Because that's a lot of money, and as chair of the DSCC, you do so much traveling -- you know the rules. That's a pretty big chunk of money not to pay back.
MENENDEZ: Well, it's certainly the responsibility of myself, when it came to my attention to do so. Now, if it had come to my attention before, I would have in fact, done it before. When it came to my attention, I did what was right, and I paid for it myself.
BASH: And you, of course, understand the perception that when you say it came to your attention, that you didn't pay for it until you got caught.
MENENDEZ: Well, that's not the case. The bottom line is, when it came to my attention, I paid for it.
There are a series of flights that were alleged. Several of them were shown not to be the case. But after the election, when I got to look at the allegations, and I did my own self-inspection, I ultimately came forward. As a matter of fact, one of those flights, I self-reported. It wasn't even anybody raised it.
BASH: One last question. Can you just answer the allegation that has been out there that you were with prostitutes...
MENENDEZ: The smears that right-wing blogs have been pushing since the election and that is totally unsubstantiated.
It's amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a Web site can drive that story into the mainstream. But that's what they have done successful. Now nobody can find them. No one ever met them. No one ever talked to them, but what's where we are at.
So, the bottom line is, all of those smears are absolutely false. And that's the bottom line.