In an interview with Politico, former Republican presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) denied allegations that Mitt Romney's tax returns dissuaded McCain from choosing him as his running mate in the 2008 campaign.
"We thought that Sarah Palin was the better candidate," McCain told Politico's Manu Raju. "Why did we not take [Tim] Pawlenty, why did we not take any of the other 10 other people. Why didn’t I? Because we had a better candidate, the same way with all the others. ... Come on, why? That’s a stupid question."
Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee this year, has been under attack recently for not releasing more than two years' worth of tax records.
Last week, Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler suggested Romney's past tax returns could become an issue for him, pointing to an statement McCain's campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, had made to MSNBC in January.
"I would never advise him to disadvantage himself with issues like his taxes, against what is precedent for campaigns," Schmidt had said. "I think that he will probably do what presidents and vice presidents typically have done with regard to the release of their taxes. But if it was good enough for John Kerry, it ought to be good enough for Mitt Romney. He shouldn`t release information that disadvantages himself and opens up a lot of attacks."
Schmidt subsequently told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell he never personally saw Romney's tax returns, saying they would have been examined by Rick Davis, who handled McCain's vetting of potential running mates.
Later in the week, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) told Buzzfeed Americans should be wary of Romney because after reviewing 23 years of his tax returns, McCain still picked Sarah Palin to run against the Barack Obama/Joe Biden ticket.
At the time, Palin, then the Governor of Alaska, was seen as a surprising pick compared to Romney, who had run against McCain for the nomination after serving of Governor of Massachusetts. But McCain defended his decision in the interview, calling the allegations "outrageous."
"It shows the – it’s so disgraceful for them to allege something that they have absolutely no knowledge of," he said.
O'Malley's barb was subsequently picked up by former presidential press secretary James Carville and, as Mediaite reports, Chicago mayor and Obama campaign surrogate Rahm Emanuel.
"He’s telling the people, ‘I’m not going to give you what I gave John McCain’s people in 2008,’" Emanuel told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "And when he gave them 23 years, John McCain’s campaign looked at it and went, ‘Let’s go with Sarah Palin.’ So whatever’s in there is far worse than just the first year.”