Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday, accusing him of lying about how much Mitt Romney has paid in taxes. But the offensive did little to change the conversation, as the issue of Romney’s tax disclosures continued to take center stage.
Reid has alleged—based on information from an investor in Bain Capital, he says—that Romney has refused to release more than two years of tax returns because he hasn't paid taxes for a decade. Though Reid hasn't offered any proof for his claims, they've picked up steam, adding to persistent calls from Democrats--and some Republicans--for Romney to release more returns.
On Thursday, Reid went so far as to repeat his allegations on the Senate floor, a move that Republicans derided as nakedly political and inappropriate. On Sunday, Republicans took their response a step further, accusing Reid of flatly lying.
The charge was first taken up by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking on CNN's State of the Union. "I think he's lying about his statement of knowing something about Romney," Graham said, accusing him of "making things up" at a time when Congress should be focusing on more important issues.
"I just cannot believe that the Majority Leader of the United States Senate would take the floor twice, make accusations that are absolutely unfounded, in my view, and quite frankly making things up to divert the campaign away from the real issues," he said.
Later, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus echoed Graham's accusations and took them a step further. "I'm not going to respond to a dirty liar who hasn't filed a single page of tax returns himself," he said on ABC's This Week.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell called Reid's charge "slanderous and reckless."
"People don’t care about Mitt Romney’s tax returns,” he said on CBS' Face the Nation. “They are [worried] about their own tax returns, and the taxes that are going to be increased under President Barack Obama, where nearly a million small business people are getting a whopping tax increase. That’s the issue in this race.”
But Democrats didn't seem worried, and none disavowed Reid's claims on Sunday. Obama campaign advisor Robert Gibbs would not say that the Obama campaign would ask Reid to stop. "I don't think anybody controls Harry Reid," he said.
Gibbs used the opportunity, instead, to further the Democratic call for more tax returns from Romney, a strategy taken by other Democrats appearing on television on Sunday. David Axelrod, a senior Obama campaign adviser, said on Fox News Sunday that he didn't know who Reid's source was, but that Romney could put the discussion to rest by releasing more returns.
“The point here is the Romney campaign can resolve this in 10 seconds … they ought to release the returns and that would put all of this to rest," he said.
Romney has said repeatedly he will not be releasing more returns.