Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was under fire from Republicans and media figures alike Sunday for claiming, on the Senate floor, that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did not pay any taxes for ten years. Reid's charge came amid calls by Democrats for Romney to release more of his tax returns.
"It's one of the most outrageous charges that I've ever seen made on the Senate floor," ABC News Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl said Sunday on "This Week."
Reid first made the claim in an interview with The Huffington Post published Tuesday, saying that, according to an investor for Bain Capital, Romney "didn't pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain."
Then on Thursday, Reid was delivering a speech on the Senate floor when he said, "the word's out that [Romney] hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years."
Reid did not mention in that speech that "the word's out" because he first made the unsubstantiated claim to The Huffington Post.
Karl said that sometimes politicians will make outrageous claims for publications like The Huffington Post, but he was surprised that such a claim would be made on the Senate floor.
"Harry Reid comes to the floor of the Senate and makes this outrageous charge that has absolutely no evidence."
Karl noted that Romney paid about $3 million in taxes on his 2011 tax return, and called Reid's charge "completely false."
On Wednesday, comedian Jon Stewart mocked Reid for a segment on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" that he called, "You, Harry Reid, Are Terrible."
"Here's a rule of thumb: if you have to follow your claim with the words 'I don't know if that's true,' then shut up. Otherwise, you might as well put a dead cocker spaniel on your head and start yelling about birth certificates," Stewart joked next to a photo of Donald Trump, the bulbous coiffed billionaire celebrity and birther conspiracy theorist.
But Karl said it does not matter how much Reid is attacked or mocked either on "This Week" or by Stewart because Reid "loves it" because "it gets the story [of Romney not releasing more of his tax returns] out there again and again."
Conservative columnist George Will accused Reid of "McCarthyism" and pointed out that there is no reason to believe that an investor of Bain Capital would have specific knowledge of Romney's tax returns.
"That's as though ... as an investor in Microsoft I now have opinions on Bill Gates' tax returns," Will joked.
On CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said that Reid's actions on the Senate floor were "out of bounds" and he was "lying."
"I think he's making things up at a time when the country is just about to fall apart," Graham said.
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus used similar language, calling Reid a "dirty liar" on "This Week."
"I'm not going to respond to a dirty liar who hasn't filed a single page of tax returns himself, complains about people with money but lives in the Ritz Carlton here (in Washington, D.C.)," Priebus said.