Romney to Reid: 'Put up or shut up'
August 2nd, 2012
06:22 PM ET
11 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. Mitt Romney

    "Did any rabid democrat consider the idea that Romney has nothing really to hide (other than legally paying less than 15% tax, which is a different policy issue), and is just allowing the Democrat Rhetoric to feed on itself to these ridiculous levels. Let it get to a furious roar, then release the records"
    Nope, not gonna do it, don't have to, not going to, as G.H.W. Bush used to babble. Don't care, won't happen, vote for me anyway or not. After all, "Obama's a socialist," right kids? Ah, ha ha ha ha. I've got you all so good!

    August 3, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  2. wonfish

    So, if Harry puts up, then will Williard definitely show his tax returns. If so, then why doesn't Williard just release them now to show Harry is a liar?

    August 3, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  3. mike

    you go Mitt. Don't really care for you and really hate to have to vote for the 'least, worst option' but at least you're showing some balls finally.

    August 3, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  4. Aiden

    If he paid nothing all power to him. GE paid nothing in taxes one year and we heard not a whisper from the loons in the media. I know I take every deduction possible and pride myself on getting every break possible and have plenty of rich Democrat friends who do the same. If you want to pay more go ahead but I don't and would rather give that money to my church and organizations that share my goals and that of my family.

    August 3, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  5. snoozie

    I love how the republicans are so terribly offended that we are asking for Romney's tax records. If HE puts up, WE'LL shut up! Can you imagine if it were Obama who had refused to release the standard several years' worth? The republicans would never stand for it.

    August 3, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  6. rebootfan

    If Americans truly feel that it's fine for a very wealthy family to not pay any taxes, then why doesn't Romney release the information? It might even win him some support amongst those who think that a president Romney would let *them* not pay taxes too...

    August 3, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  7. Satan

    "Funny, did not see one report on CNN of Mrs. Obama's $6,800 jacket which she wore the other evening in London! I certainly hope the tax dollars that are paid because "I didn't earn it" didn't pay for it so she could look good." -- I work for the Federal government. I pay my own salary with the taxes I pay. Just because you also pay my salary does not mean you get to dictate how I may spend that money and on what. I will spend my public service paycheck any way I want. I will never, ever defer to the taxpayers and consider what you all would consider to be an appropriate purchase for me to make with "your" money. It's my money once it gets deposited in my bank account. I earn it, I spend it. Likewise, anything the President makes as part of his pay for serving as a public servant is his money. Not yours. If he and his wife want to spend it on a $6,800 jacket or a vacation to the Hamptons, it is none of your business.

    August 3, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  8. Daver

    Wow... just a few minutes of research turns up a couple of old Mitt Romney quotes demanding that his opponent release tax returns. And a good quote on the topic by his own father.

    * With the tax-filing deadline looming, Republican Senate candidate Mitt Romney yesterday challenged Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to disclose his state and federal taxes to prove he has ‘nothing to hide,’ but another GOP rival, John R. Lakian, called Romney’s move ‘bush league’ ‘It’s time the biggest-taxing senator in Washington shows the people of Massachusetts how much he pays in taxes,” said Romney, a business consultant from Belmont. Romney said he would disclose his own state and federal taxes for the last three years ‘on the very day that Kennedy turns over his taxes for public scrutiny.’ [Boston Globe, 4/19/94]

    * 1967 when George Romney released his actual tax returns for the previous 12 years. “One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show,” the elder Romney said then.

    August 3, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  9. snoozie

    Aiden, GE is not running for POTUS.

    August 3, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  10. adams63

    There must be a lot of substance to what Reid said or the coward would prove him wrong

    August 3, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  11. Thomas

    Funny, did not see one report on CNN of Mrs. Obama's $6,800 jacket which she wore the other evening in London! I certainly hope the tax dollars that are paid because "I didn't earn it" didn't pay for it so she could look good.

    Your such a hipocrit . Where do you come up with your facts , the Fox Fashion network ?

    How about the tax payers money spent on secret service for Mitts five sons and 16 grandchildren in London ?

    August 3, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  12. laurie

    Romney you shut up and go away because we hate you .

    August 3, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  13. Jnail

    According to the article, Reid did not claim any illegal activity, instead only that Romney paid $0 in taxes, likely through legal loopholes. The goal is to spotlight those loopholes utilized by Romney and get his statement on the fairness of such.

    Romney's position has been that he has paid only what was legally required and to do otherwise would make him unfit to be president. This argument completely ignores the legislative influence the wealthy have toward tax policy. Romney's claim is likely true that his profits are obtained from legal means. However, the question is were his methods ethical.

    August 3, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  14. Tony

    Fair is Fair,
    We will love to talk about Romney's economic plan. But what is Romney's economic plan? Give the rich more tax cuts, even though 11 years of the Bush tax cuts have not created jobs, and hope that the rich finally get around to creating jobs, instead of just keeping the money or stashing it in Swiss or Cayman Islands accounts like Romney?

    August 3, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  15. Jules

    Show us the taxes you paid, Romney. Show us the results of the IRA audits, Romney. Please note, that John McCain did not say that Romney had a tax liability that he paid every year and he has seen the tax returns. It will all come out. Drip, Drip, Drip. I'd wait until after the conventions for the biggest bomb shell – like right before the debates. Romney would do well to get his ax returns out as soon as possible and get whatever over as soon as possible.

    August 3, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. CaliforniaBC

    Perhaps Romney should put up his tax returns instead of hiding behind them or waiting for his accountants to "fix" the things he doesn't want to public to see.

    Just like his father did... let's see the returns Romney! What are you afraid of...?? Proving Reid right?

    August 3, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  17. JohnW

    So legitimate questions arise about his taxes, he repeatedly refuses to share the information, adding to the questionability, and REID is the one that should put up or shut up? What a jackhole.

    August 3, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  18. Wake up people

    Excuses, excuses from the same rabid party that disrespects the POTUS at every turn. The same people making excuses for this pathological liar were the same ones salivating over the prospect of the president not being a citizen. Wake up people, or we are all doomed. Get rid of all rethugs/baggers, they are lunatics and traitors.

    OBAMA 2012!

    August 3, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  19. Tim

    Problem I have is the Mitt doesn't think that the electorate is smart enough to determine if his taxes are fair or honest. He has basically said he thinks the electorate can't determine what is true or not by looking at his tax returns. Republicans like to talk about Obama's arogance, but isn't that arrogance. If he does not think we are smart enough to look at his tax returns and make a fair decision, if he is president what will he hide from us? Richard Nixon in the making.

    August 3, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |

    I think it's stupid that people don't wanna see Mitts tax returns before electing him. C'mon ReDUMBlicans use your wealhty little brains for a change.

    August 3, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  21. truth hurts

    maybe he is invested in tax free municipal bonds? if i had that kind of money that is where some of it would be, except in california bonds. no junk please.

    August 3, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. SC

    This can't be as bad as these Repubs asking Obama to prove his citizenship.

    August 3, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  23. anon-i-mouse

    So many people are missing the point. No one has accused Romney of being a tax cheat or crook. They are saying that he used every tax loophole and trick in the book to avoid paying any. It's not a matter of legal or illegal – it's a matter of exposing how the tax law benefits the richest of us and the rest of us get picking up the tab.

    Also, now this in any way compares to Obama's college transcripts is beyond me. Please come up with a relevant comparrision if you want to try to stick something back on Obama.

    August 3, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  24. yellowdog

    I usually vote Democrat and wont' vote for Romney, however, it is not against the law to "avoid" taxes. It is against the law to "evade" paying your taxes. If he paid what he legally owes then Reid should either shut it or provide the proof to back up his claim. I hate this kind of crap in politics. We, as a country have so many more needs and we need to try and take care of those issues. This crap is just old....on BOTH sides.

    August 3, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  25. SEA12

    It used to be that people in our country held in highest esteem any individual who, through his/her own work and initiative, built business and/or companies into very successful enterprises. Now, the efforts of class warfare (pitched by the Obama supporters), have us all deriding and heckling the wealthy Americans who made those fortunes themselves. Extreme wealth IS questionable in a society where the poor have great need. However, Mr. Romney donates millions to his church and to his community - many eventually benefit from his wealth. In order to allow capitalism to flourish, there will be some whose efforts create enormous personal wealth. The is another system; it's called Communism. Want that one?

    August 3, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
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