Romney to Reid: 'Put up or shut up'
August 2nd, 2012
06:22 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney to Reid: 'Put up or shut up'

(CNN) – Mitt Romney on Thursday pushed back against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's allegations that the presumptive GOP nominee has not been paying his taxes.

"It's time for Harry to put up or shut up," Romney said on Sean Hannity's radio show.

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In a Huffington Post interview published Tuesday, the leading Democrat said that an unnamed investor with Bain Capital, Romney's former private equity firm, told Reid in a phone conversation that Romney had not paid taxes for a decade.

Reid stood by the allegations on Thursday while speaking on the Senate floor.

"The word's out that he hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years," he said. "Let him prove he has paid taxes because he hasn't."

Democrats and President Barack Obama's re-election campaign have repeatedly called for Romney to release more tax documents to answer any questions about his financial portfolio.

Romney has made public the full 2010 tax return and an estimate for 2011, with a pledge to release the full year once it's complete. He filed an extension for an October deadline.

Critics have hit back against Reid's comments this week, faulting him for making claims based off an anonymous source.

"Harry's gonna have to describe who it is he spoke with because of course that's totally and completely wrong," Romney said Thursday in the radio interview. "It's untrue, dishonest and inaccurate. It's wrong. So I'm looking forward to have Harry reveal his sources and we'll probably find out that it's the White House."

Mirroring Romney's comments, senior campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom described Reid's comments as "shameful, pathetic, baseless and untrue" and argued the majority leader, with the help of the Obama campaign, was attempting to "engage in McCarthy-like accusations about Mitt Romney."

"Four years ago Barack Obama said he was going to come to Washington and change the politics. Instead the Obama campaign has turned into a bottomless pit. Every day they reach a new low," he said Thursday on CNN's "The Situation Room."

Adding on, Fehrnstrom said Romney has "never zeroed out his tax liability" and "has always paid 100% of what was owed."

After Romney's interview on Hannity's radio show, the majority leader responded in a statement and said he is not backing down from his remarks.

"As I said before, I was told by an extremely credible source that Romney has not paid taxes for ten years. People who make as much money as Romney have many tricks at their disposal to avoid paying taxes," he said.

Reid argued Romney is "hiding something" and called on the presumptive GOP nominee to release more taxes.

"When it comes to answering the legitimate questions the American people have about whether he avoided paying his fair share in taxes or why he opened a Swiss bank account, Romney has shut up. But as a presidential candidate, it’s his obligation to put up and release several years’ worth of tax returns just like nominees of both parties have done for decades," Reid said.

According to a source familiar with Reid's thinking, the majority leader, a former boxer, considers himself a political street fighter now, willing to throw a punch and get hit back big time for a cause. In this case, the cause is making sure the topic of Romney's tax returns remains in the news, and in the campaign narrative.

The source said Reid is "happy to mix it up and put this back in the news" and added the "finger waggers of the Acela corridor won't dissuade him from speaking his mind."

Reid, the source said, is unconcerned about the hits he is taking on making unsubstantiated claims, because the Democratic base is fired up. The source says they know that anecdotally. It's not an accident that Reid said this to the Huffington Post, a friendly outlet, and did so as Romney was returning from his overseas trip.

"What happened when Romney returned? The first story he has to deal with is his tax returns," the source said.

One of Romney's biggest surrogates, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, came to Romney's defense on Thursday, saying Reid may have "gone over the line."

"I've known Sen. Reid for many, many years, and occasionally he displays some rather erratic behavior," McCain said on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360." "To accuse someone of doing something without a shred of proof–that the allegation has any substance–is really something I, frankly, don't understand."

McCain, whose 2008 presidential campaign reviewed Romney's tax records as they considered him to be the vice presidential running mate, said last month he can "personally vouch" that there was "nothing disqualifying" in the tax returns of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

On Thursday, he urged Reid to come "forward" with his source.

"I think politics are tough. I enjoy the give and take but I think Harry might have gone over the line," McCain said.

Later, while visiting a fruit stand with his mother in Florida, Ryan responded to the negative reaction in the room.

"Entitlement reform has unfortunately been made very partisan by partisans, and so I have gotten that kind of reaction and unfortunately it's what we come to expect because the politics of reforming entitlements has become very bitter and it's very unfortunate," he told reporters in Lakeland.

Also see:

- Ryan gives House GOP a 'pep talk'

- Defending Romney, McCain cites 2008 campaign trail misspeak

- Romney to ramp up campaign schedule with bus tour

- Pawlenty takes post at Financial Services Roundtable

- Letterman: No hard feelings toward Romney

Filed under: Harry Reid • Mitt Romney • Taxes
soundoff (1,080 Responses)
  1. Pffft

    "To accuse someone of doing something without a shred of proof–that the allegation has any substance–is really something I, frankly, don't understand."

    Me neither Senator McCain. I didn't understand it when your little pitbull with lipstick accused Obama of "paling around with terrorists" without any proof either. Oh, and let's not forget the birthers, who despite definitive evidence continue to insist Obama was born in Kenya. The Republicans don't seem to mind baseless accusations when they're making them. Don't like it so much when it happens to them.

    Romney IS hiding something, and the tax issue needs to stay on the front burner until he understands that he is accountable to US if he wants the job. Funny, during the 2004 campaign they called Kerry an "elitist" because of his wife's wealth. What does that Romney?

    Hypocrites. It's time the Democrats take off the gloves and come out fighting.

    August 3, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  2. Melodie Griffith

    Romeny is the smart one here all the rest of you Obama supporters are the dummies. So far Obama had done nothing for our country except for dig us deepe in a hole. All you peopel do is chop apart Romeny. Why? Because he is so successful? One thing for sure Romney will still be rich if he is not elected. The rest of us will continue to suffer under Obama for four more years and by the end of that this country will be done.

    August 3, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  3. Barry G.

    Look we just want to know whether you have been hiding your money in off-shore bank accounts.

    August 3, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  4. Malory Archer


    I have it from a source that Harry Reid has had relations with sheep. I would like him to provide proof that this is not the case.


    Whether he did or didn't there would be no paper trail to prove one way or another. The same can't be said about mittens' tax returns.

    August 3, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  5. SEA12

    Here's the deal: it seems that any form of slander, misrepresentation, or lying is "justified" for the Obama
    folks; Romney is taken to task for even a mild criticism of the President. If we're going to evaluate exaggeration
    and distortion, let's do so without bias. The Obama campaign is running one of the most negative and polarizing
    operations in the last 80 years. So much for change and hope in American politics: when it serves his purposes,
    Obama abandons all hope. Wake up and look at what's going on through unfiltered bias.

    August 3, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  6. cnnmembuh

    If Romney failed to pay taxes for several years, don't you think someone within the IRS would have stumbled across this little tidbit by now?

    August 3, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  7. Zil Zerimar

    Sen Reid please don't shut up until Romney the congenital liar prove that he paid his income taxes for 10 years. Why do we Americans have to shut up if somebody is lying to us. Mitty the Twitty alias Pooper, you can lie to the republicans all you want but the American people are more smarter than the republicans. If there is nothing to hide why not show it to us. Oh well you cannot and you will not for that will be the end of your campaign. LIAR!!!

    August 3, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. Paul

    lol Republicans nominated a fool. You should have gone with Santorum

    August 3, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  9. SPQR

    My advice to Mr. Mitt Romney, show the American people those 10 years of tax returns "only" if you have nothing to hide.

    If you do have something to hide don't show your taxes.

    I don't know why people insist in seeing the taxes returns.

    If Mr. Romney doesn't show the 10 years of tax returns he is being called on, I already know the answer.

    I don't need to peel the banana to know what it looks like in the inside.

    August 3, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. Anonymous

    So, just to be clear – it is absolutely 100% imperative that the President of the United States bend over backwards to prove to every screaming racist in the country that he was, in fact, born here. And even when he produces the paperwork they demand, they ignore it and call it a fraud. But, when Mittens is asked to produce his tax returns (a tradition for folks running for President), suddenly his privacy is sacred.

    August 3, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  11. Kita

    "Put up or shut up."

    Mr. Romney, you do realize you're running for the office of President of the United States of America and not your fifth grade student council, yes?

    August 3, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  12. ImIrish

    Romney has a right to confront his accuser, so 'fess up, Harry. Who told you?! Oh, yeah, nobody, because it is a lie.

    August 3, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  13. 9hydra

    The arrogance of Romney is astounding. He thinks he's better than us and can just refuse to do what the people want. The right must really h a t e Obama since they'll elect this guy even though they know he will rob them blind.

    August 3, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  14. sane

    Romney is aghast that Reid would make such an unfounded claim then goes on to claim "...we'll probably find out that it's the White House".

    August 3, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  15. Anonymous


    Democrats are getting Desperate.
    Really? It's not a Democrat who is behind in the polls and trying to hide something so bad it would keep him from getting elected!

    August 3, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  16. Cathy L

    Romney has never served in Congress which means that he has never had any vote over tax rates or those rules that make those "qualifying" exemptions legal. Reid and other "elected" officials have and they make the rules. So if you don't like it, change the rules and the rate, but, don't blame Romney or any other taxpayers for who may or may not have done the so called "qualifying" exemptions" which Congress makes legal. By the way, Reid, their are some very rich Democrats out there, are you making sure that they are paying their taxes?

    August 3, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  17. ohgran

    When the same tactics/games are used against the GOP that they have used for years, they cry fowl. If Romney has nothing to hide, then he should unhide his returns. If he doesn't, then the voters can decide for themselves who is the one playing games with us.

    August 3, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  18. Damndems

    Romney should release all of his returns. Right after Obama releases his birth certificate, his college transcripts, his membership card to the Communist Party . . . Can we all say "damn Democrat hypocrites?"

    August 3, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  19. SEA12

    Once again, the overwhelming issues of our time (economy, jobs, future growth) are completely ignored by the majority of those obsessed with the smoke screen thrown up by All the President's Men. Mr. Romney has paid whatever amount of taxes is legal due to the rules in play. If you want him (and others like him) to pay more taxes, the tax laws must be changed. Romney is not undeserving of the Presidency for trying to pay the least amount of taxes under U.S. law. However, Obama does not deserve to be re-elected for a dismal record of economic and domestic policy failure for the past 3.5 years. Remember: Obama has been our President since 2009 - Not George W. Bush. (just to get that typical response off the table).

    August 3, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. Oscar Pitchfork

    ..."with a pledge to release the full year once it's complete". Yeah, by then his ultra-rich cronies will have found a way to have the IRS fabricate all the paperwork. And don't think they won't! Once he shows them the numbers on how much more revenue they'll have once he's Prez and starts sticking it to the middle class, they'll roll over just like the heel-hounds they are...

    August 3, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  21. B4Cons

    Right Back atchya Mittens ....... A Bain Stock Holder told Reid you didn't pay Taxes for 10 years ...... prove him wrong ... Put up or Shut up.

    August 3, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  22. Steve

    Democrats are truly clueless. Rich people provide jobs. If you took their money and gave it to poor people it wiould not produce more jobs. Why do you care about his income taxes. He's rich. Good for him. I don't care what rate he paid as long as he paid what he is legally required to pay. The real question is what has the amature in the White House done to get the economy moving. Nothing! Maybe we need four more miserable years so the democrats can feel the pain even worse and wake up.

    August 3, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  23. Fisher

    Harry Reid is a disgrace to the Senate. It’s sad to say such lacking individual has led that august body. Harry Reid epitomizes everything lacking with our leaders today. He will not compromise, has performed the bare minimum of duties in his position, and has not put forth a budget required under law in over 1000 days. If irrational, delusional, and complete deceptive traits were the sign of a good leader Harry would be the best.

    August 3, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. Riley

    I think most of us want Senator Reid to SHUT UP! He is such a disgrace of a senator.

    August 3, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. lookout4

    I would rather have "trickle down economics" (Reagan), than trickle up poverty (Obama). Harry reid looks like Elmer Fudd would have if he had been through 5 divorces and aged poorly. But Elmer was a sweet stooge; Reid is a sour stooge who made his Momma cry.

    August 3, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
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