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No more Mr. Nice Mitt: Romney tells Harry Reid to 'put up or shut up'

Published: Friday, Aug. 3 2012 12:19 p.m. MDT

In this July 11, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks in Houston, Texas. Romney spent part of Friday, Aug. 3, 2012, parrying Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's accusation that Romney did not pay income taxes for 10 years.

Associated Press

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For the second consecutive day, Mitt Romney spent part of Friday parrying Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s accusation that Romney did not pay income taxes for 10 years.

The Associated Press reported that as Romney campaigned Friday in Nevada, the Republican presidential candidate called Reid’s claims “patently, simply false” and declared he has “paid taxes every year — and a lot of taxes.”

Thursday on Sean Hannity’s radio show, Romney fired his first salvo at Reid’s tax-related accusations.

"Well, it's time for Harry to put up or shut up,” Romney said, per Politico. “Harry's going to have to describe who it is he spoke with because of course, that's totally and completely wrong. 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 it's the White House.”

Not long after Romney's radio appearance, Reid upped the ante by reiterating his original claim even more forcefully. As Business Insider reported, Reid issued a five-paragraph statement Thursday night — the beginning of which reads, “There is a controversy because the Republican presidential nominee, Gov. Mitt Romney, refuses to release his tax returns. As I said before, I was told by an extremely credible source that Romney has not paid taxes for 10 years. People who make as much money as Mitt Romney have many tricks at their disposal to avoid paying taxes. We already know that Romney has exploited many of these loopholes, stashing his money in secret, overseas accounts in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.”

The political website The Hills reported that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., voiced strong support for Reid on Friday morning during the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”

“Schumer said the Reid attacks are politically effective for Democrats, and urged Romney to release more of his tax returns, suggesting Democrats will not back away from the aggressive campaigning. ‘Every day Mitt Romney has to talk about tax returns is a bad day for him and a good day for Democrats. You know they're trying to focus this on Harry Reid, there's an 800-pound elephant in the room — it's called unreleased taxes,’ Schumer said.”

The Christian Science Monitor’s Liz Marlantes noted Friday that the ongoing controversy could be an opportunity for Romney to connect with voters.

“Tellingly, Romney didn’t deliver the (‘put up or shut up’) line with anything even approaching genuine outrage,” Marlantes wrote. “Listening to the tone of his voice, he could have been talking about his lawn furniture. … Instead of scripted rejoinders, what voters really need to hear from Romney is some sort of heartfelt response. It doesn't have to be snappy; it just has to be honest.”

The whole brouhaha commenced Tuesday when Reid floated the accusation during an interview with the Huffington Post that Romney wasn’t releasing more than two years of tax returns because he hadn’t paid his taxes over a 10-year period.

“Reid has said he learned about Romney's taxes earlier this summer from an investor in Bain Capital who, he said, called his office to pass along the information,” the Associated Press reported. “The senator has refused to identify the investor and has acknowledged that he can't be certain about the veracity of the charges he has been spreading.”

The next day it was more of the same: Reid told Nevada reporters during a Wednesday conference call, “I am not basing this on some figment of my imagination. I have had a number of people tell me that."

Earlier Friday before he addressed Reid’s accusations, Romney tried to focus the political news cycle on economic matters by addressing the Labor Department’s new jobs report for July.

“The Labor Department said the economy added 163,000 jobs in July, marking the best pace of hiring in five months,” the Associated Press reported. "The jobless rate rose slightly, however, to 8.3 percent, from 8.2 percent in June. … Romney said the uptick in the unemployment rate was a ‘hammer blow’ to the middle class. … Romney, running for the presidency on his record as a successful businessman, said Friday's numbers were ‘not just statistics’ and underscored the real struggles people across the country are facing.”

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