On Friday night’s edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow waded in to the escalating political battle between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and presumptive Republican nominee for president, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).
On Thursday, Romney did something which he rarely does, which is to take questions from reporters. In the entire six day overseas trip that he recently completed, he took three unscripted questions, in spite of the fact that the campaign was traveling with a full compliment of representatives of the media.
Yesterday’s questions revolved around Reid’s allegations that a source from Romney’s hedge fund, Bain Capital, has told him that the former governor paid no income taxes at all for ten years, a charge the Romney campaign has noisily and emphatically denied, but produced no proof. Even as reporters have hammered Romney to release the forms, he has doubled down and refused.
Thursday, Reid issued a statement calling Romney “the most secretive presidential candidate since Richard Nixon…Forget president, Mitt Romney couldn’t get confirmed as cabinet secretary. Every single nominee overseen by the Senate Finance Committee has to release more tax returns than Romney is willing to release.”
The dogged intensity of Reid’s hard offense against Romney has shocked many in Washington. Reid is normally a much more mild-mannered type and this honey-badger style attack is very out of character for him.
“Even for a person who’s usually hyper,” Maddow said, “that is a little unhinged: an unnamed single source making a phone call to his office with a wild accusation that the Senate Majority Leader puts on the record to reporters, even though he admits it’s just hearsay and he doesn’t know if it’s true? That’s outrageous. It’s weird.”
And yet, when everyone expected Reid to back off and excuse himself, he doubled down, forcing another angry denial from the Romney camp. However, said Maddow, Romney did this very thing in 2002 when he was running for Massachusetts governor, he would not release his tax returns.
He demanded, however, that the husband of his opponent in that election, Shannon O’Brien, release his tax returns in addition to Mrs. O’Brien’s records, which were already available to the public. “What is she hiding?” demanded longtime Romney aide and confidant Eric Fehrnstrom.
Yet now, as Maddow points out, when Harry Reid is doing the exact same thing, all the Romney campaign can do is whine and complain about how unfair this tactic is and how nasty mean old Harry Reid is being. And while the campaign is making what Maddow calls “positive empirical claims” about Gov. Romney’s taxes, they still refuse to disclose the actual records.
In the 2002 gubernatorial campaign, it was alleged that Romney had gamed his taxes to qualify to run for governor. The Massachusetts Democratic Party said that Romney had lied about filing jointly as a resident of Massachusetts and Utah, a charge that the Romney campaign denied and denied and denied until the very last minute when they were forced to admit that yes, the charge had merit and that Romney had filed retroactively.
In that instance, as in this one, Romney and his top aide Eric Fehrnstrom said over and over, “You’re just going to have to take our word for it,” while refusing to disclose any proof.
So what are they hiding this time?
Watch the clip, embedded via MSNBC, below: