During the 2012 presidential campaign, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made an outrageous allegation that GOP nominee Mitt Romney hadn't paid taxes for 10 years.
Reid, who recently announced that he will not seek re-election in 2016, first made the claim in an interview with the Huffington Post on July 31, 2012. "He didn't pay taxes for 10 years," he said. "Now do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain, but obviously he can't release those tax returns. How would it look?"
This was not a slip of the tongue, it was a calculated lie that Reid repeated several times in an attempt to pressure Romney into releasing tax returns for years prior to 2010.
A few days later, on Aug. 2, Reid doubled down in a speech on the Senate floor. "If a person coming before this body wanted to be a Cabinet officer, he couldn't be if he had the same refusal Mitt Romney does about tax returns," he said. "So the word is out that he has not paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove he has paid taxes, because he has not."
He tripled down on the accusation later that day in a statement saying that he was told by an "extremely credible source" that Romney hadn't paid taxes for 10 years.
The bogus claim created a media firestorm at the time, and earned Reid a "pants on fire" rating from PolitiFact and "four Pinocchios" from Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler, who wrote that Reid "has no basis to make his incendiary claim" and should "hold himself to a high standard of accuracy when making claims about political opponents."
When asked about it three years later, you would think Reid would apologize or at least show the proper level of contrition that matches the irresponsible and undignified act of using the Senate floor to spread false allegations about a politician from the opposing party.
But Reid has no regrets. "I don't regret that at all," he told CNN's Dana Bash on Tuesday in the interview clip above. "Romney didn't win did he?"
So what mattered most to Reid was that Romney lost and Obama won. It's one thing to try to gain a political advantage by pointing out certain undesirable aspects of an opponent's background or record. But when a Senate democratic leader spreads baseless allegations without a shred of evidence, and uses the Senate floor to do so, that's one step too far. And what makes it even more egregious is that Reid seems to be proud of his actions.
It's this win-at-all-cost mentality that continues to poison our politics and fuel public distrust of elected officials.
"Romney didn't win did he?" No he didn't. But there's more to politics than winning and losing. Integrity matters. A strong commitment to upholding public trust matters. Honesty and magnanimity matter.
Unfortunately, those things don't seem to matter to Harry Reid.
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