NORTH LAS VEGAS — The issue of how much Mitt Romney has paid in taxes in recent years continued to hound the presumptive Republican presidential nominee on Friday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continuing to push anonymous claims that Romney paid no taxes for years.
“The other day, I said that I'd been told by a very credible source that Mitt Romney hadn't paid taxes for 10 years. Gov. Romney got upset. But, you know what? I'm not backing down,” Reid wrote in an email to supporters. “I'm not backing down because, when you run for president, you should be an open book. I'm not backing down because Mitt Romney is hiding something — and the American people deserve to know what it is.”
Romney, campaigning in North Las Vegas, shot back that Reid needed to reveal his source.
“Harry Reid really has to put up or shut up, all right?” Romney said when reporters asked about Reid's allegation. “So Harry, who are your sources? Let's have Harry explain who that is. And by the way, Harry, I understand what you're trying to do. You're trying to deflect the fact the jobs numbers are bad, that Americans are out of work, and you're trying to throw everything up on a screen that will grab attention away from the fact the policies of the White House haven't worked to put Americans to work.”
Romney was adamant that he had paid taxes.
“Let me also say categorically, I have paid taxes every year, and a lot of taxes. A lot of taxes,” he said. “So Harry is simply wrong, and that's why I'm so anxious for him to give us the names of the people who have put this forward. I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear the names are people from the White House or the Obama campaign, or who knows where they're coming from.”
Romney said that attacks such as Reid's were not only patently false, but that they took away from what ought to be a substantive discussion about the nation's future.
“When [President Obama] called me and I became the presumptive Republican nominee, he said, ‘You know, this is going to be an important campaign on the direction of the country and a debate for the direction of the country.' I had hoped this would be a debate for the direction of the country,” Romney said. “What we're seeing instead is one attack after the other — misleading, false attacks.”
Reid said that Romney could easily put the matter to rest by releasing additional tax returns. He pledged he wouldn't drop the matter and called Romney the most secretive presidential nominee since Richard Nixon.
“Romney seems to think he's above the basic level of transparency and openness that every presidential candidate has lived up to since his father set the standard in 1968. Thumbing your nose at the people you're asking to vote for you won't fly in Nevada, just like it won't fly in the rest of the country,” he said.
Romney replied that he had already released financial disclosure statements since 2002 and his return for 2010, and that he would release his 2011 return as soon as it was prepared.
“I've already learned from Harry Reid's action and others that people on the other side of the aisle will try and go through anything we give them to distort it, to turn it into something that it does not say and to try to make political fodder out of it,” he said. “And I'm following the precedent set by the last presidential candidate of our party, John McCain.”