As we’ve said from the beginning, Harry Reid’s claim of an undisclosed source who says Mitt Romney paid no taxes for ten years was a low blow and an irresponsible claim. Not because it was implausible or even particularly unlikely but simply because you shouldn’t publicly accuse people of things based on totally unsubstantiated and unrevealed evidence. But now conservatives are claiming a double-standard because Reid’s claims aren’t being treated in just the same way as Rep. Michele Bachmann’s smear of Huma Abedin and other American Muslims.
It is difficult to find a better example of the strange mixture of paranoia, bad faith and self-pity that is behind so many conservative claims of media bias.
But let’s start with this: claiming someone legally paid little or no taxes — but not revealing your source — is not the same as accusing American citizens of treason or whipping up religious bigotry againt members of a religious minority group.
Huma Abedin is certainly not a traitor or a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. We’re not lacking proof of Bachmann’s claim. It’s a transparently ridiculous claim with all the positive evidence in the world showing it is untrue. And we rightly hold claims of group treason, particularly leveled against racial or religious groups, in particular contempt and revulsion in our society. Similarly, we say it’s particularly bad when anti-Semites say that Jews are conspiring against America or slaughter gentile children for their religious ceremonies.
Reid? It’s actually quite plausible that Romney paid little or no income taxes in years after his severance agreement with Bain Capital. And Romney has made his taxes a very legitimate issue since he’s been so secretive about them and has a record of aggressive, though legal, tax avoidance. Still, it’s a low blow for Reid to toss out claims based on shadowy sources he’s willing to reveal little or nothing about. But as Reid might say to Romney, paraphrasing his one time antagonist Sharron Angle, man up, Mitt Romney.
So to review, blood libel and invocations of group treason based on religious bigotry, bad. Saying someone running for president managed not to pay any income taxes, not as bad.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.