Reid has generated a lot of controversy with his claim that presumptive GOP nominee did not pay any taxes for 10 years. He originally told the Huffington Post that a person who had invested with Bain Capital had called his office and told him this. Then, he told reporters in Nevada that “I have had a number of people tell me that.”

Reid has refused to identify his source (or sources). Romney and his campaign aides have emphatically denied the charge but Reid has stood firm. “I don’t think the burden should be on me,” he said. “The burden should be on him. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes.”

This whole exchange poses a fact-checking conundrum. Generally, we maintain that the person or the campaign making the charge must back it up. Reid has refused to provide any evidence, except for the (unproven) fact that someone called him up and told him something that may be true — or simply a rumor.

The Pinocchio Test

We use a reasonable person standard here. Without seeing Romney’s taxes, we cannot definitively prove Reid incorrect. But tax experts say his claim is highly improbable. Reid also has made no effort to explain why his unnamed source would be credible. So, in the absence of more information, it appears he has no basis to make his incendiary claim.

Moreover, Reid holds a position of great authority in the U.S. Congress. He should hold himself to a high standard of accuracy when making claims about political opponents.

Four Pinocchios

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