On the Sunday talk shows, Republicans expressed outrage over Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) unsubstantiated claim that Mitt Romney has not paid taxes in 10 years, flatly accusing the Senate majority leader of lying.
On ABC’s “This Week,” an incensed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called Reid a “dirty liar,” saying he “complains about people with money but lives in the Ritz Carlton here down the street.”
“It’s ridiculous, it’s wrong, it’s untrue, and it’s just going to hurt the president,” he said of the claim, accusing President Obama of inciting “division and hatred.” Watch the video of his remarks:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Reid’s accusation “is so out of bounds.”
“I think he’s lying about his statement — knowing something about Romney’s [taxes],” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think he’s created an issue here. I think he’s making things up at a time when the country is just about to fall apart.”
On CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Virginia’s Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell called Reid’s charge “reckless and slanderous.”
Reid initially lobbed the claim in an interview with the Huffington Post published Tuesday, saying an unnamed investor to Bain Capitol told him Romney “didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years.” He has since repeated the charge, including on the Senate floor, and emphatically vouched for the credibility of his source.
The stinging allegation has kept the issue of Romney’s taxes at the forefront of presidential election chatter, and several high-profile conservatives have suggested he release the tax returns and move on. The presumptive GOP nominee’s campaign has been dogged with questions about why he won’t. Romney denies Reid’s charge.
“I have paid taxes every year, and a lot of taxes,” he said Friday. “So Harry is simply wrong.”
Top Obama campaign officials declined to repudiate Reid’s claims, and instead called on Romney to release the 23 years of tax returns that he privately provided John McCain’s 2008 campaign during its search for a vice presidential nominee.
“We could put all this stuff to rest tomorrow. Mitt Romney can go to Kinkos, he can photocopy his tax returns,” said Obama campaign senior adviser Robert Gibbs on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He can hand them out to people like CNN. He can hand them out to reporters all over the country.” Watch Gibbs’ remarks:
Asked several times if the campaign will ask Reid to stop making his claims, Gibbs demurred: “Let’s be clear — I don’t think anybody controls Harry Reid.”
Late Sunday morning, Reid’s spokesman Adam Jentleson responded via email to TPM.
“Republicans can try to cover up for Mitt Romney’s stonewalling all they want, but this issue is not going away until Romney decides to be straight with the American people and release his tax returns. It is sad that the most secretive candidate since Richard Nixon has forced his party to defend his decision to hide the truth about his tax returns. As Senator Reid has said, an extremely credible source informed him that Mitt Romney did not pay taxes for ten years. From the one year of returns Romney has released, we’ve seen that he uses secret offshore accounts in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It’s clear Mitt Romney is hiding something, and the only way for him to clear this up is to be straight with the American people and release his tax returns.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.