Erin Burnett Lectures Mitt Romney to Release More Tax Returns, Pay Higher Taxes

CNN's Erin Burnett, injecting her own opinion into her newscast, lectured Mitt Romney on why he should release more tax returns and pay more taxes, on Monday's OutFront. "Release the returns," she told Romney.

"If there's a lot of tax shelters and some frankly incredibly low tax rates, significantly lower say than your 13.9 percent rate in 2010, Mitt, then say this: My tax rates were too low. I don't believe that passively invested money should be taxed lower than income other people earn by working. I benefitted from low rates on investment. That's not great policy and I'm going to change it."

She even told him specifically what to say for day one of his presidency: "I will end the carried interest loophole that personally saved me tens of millions of dollars at least."

One of her hypothetical reasons that Romney was not releasing more tax returns was "he's stupid." Burnett quickly crossed that one off the list by professing that "Romney is not a stupid man." The "he's stupid" line did show up on the infographic for a couple of seconds however.

Far be it from a CNN anchor to tell a businessman how much taxes to pay, but Burnett was quite adamant about her point, starting off her show with it. "Mitt Romney is running on his business expertise. His tax returns are a relevant window into how he conducts his business affairs," she asserted.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on July 16 on OutFront at 7:00 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

ERIN BURNETT: I'm Erin Burnett and OutFront tonight, it's time, Mitt, time to put them on the table. We all know what it is, your taxes. Here are the Romneys' tax returns. This is 2010, and it's very thick as you can see. All right here is 2010. This is estimated as you can see, my pink stickies are, you know, they're yellowed from the sun because we've had them out labeled, ready to go for a long time. We're waiting for the other years.

And aside from killing trees, in the case of Mitt Romney there really isn't a need to hold back on releasing more. And I'm going to explain why in just a moment. But first today Mitt Romney made the case for non-disclosure again on FOX.

(Video Clip)

MITT ROMNEY, Republican presidential candidate: John McCain ran for president and released two years of tax returns. John Kerry ran for president, you know his wife who has hundreds of millions of dollars, she never released her tax returns. Somehow this wasn't an issue.

(End Video Clip)

BURNETT: It is an issue for Mitt Romney. It is not his wife's money. And unlike John McCain, Romney's career has been in business, not politics. Mitt Romney is running on his business expertise. His tax returns are a relevant window into how he conducts his business affairs. If he refuses to release them, it is because, one, he had a lot more money in tax shelters in prior years than he does now.

Two, he did something shady. Or, three, he's stupid. Now Mitt Romney is not a stupid man. And if he did something shady, well he did it because if he did, the IRS would already have found it. So let's assume it's number one. He had a lot of tax shelters, took advantage of every loophole known to man in the 72,536-page IRS tax code. That's fair and square. That is why the tax code is so long so people can take advantage of it. But here's our decent proposal. Release the returns. If there's a lot of tax shelters and some frankly incredibly low tax rates, significantly lower say than your 13.9 percent rate in 2010, Mitt, then say this: My tax rates were too low. I don't believe that passively invested money should be taxed lower than income other people earn by working.

I benefitted from low rates on investment. That's not great policy and I'm going to change it. On day one -- by the way, three words everybody if you see his ad, you know Mitt Romney likes to say "on day one" – I will end the carried interest loophole that personally saved me tens of millions of dollars at least. After all Americans know that this country needs major tax reform. Even Tea Partiers like Rand Paul and Mike Lee have said on this show that they would close some of the loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans.

And Mitt, you could use this as a chance to show how generous you are. Get ready for this everybody. It is true that Mitt Romney gave $7 million to charity in the two years that I held up. That's 2010 and 2011. Now that's 16.4 percent of his income. It is more than he paid in federal taxes. Now, keep this screen up because I want to show you this.

It's not like he sat there and hoarded the money he didn't pay to Uncle Sam. He gave enough away to make his rate, well 31 percent. Greater than the 30 percent that President Barack Obama says should be the minimum rate for wealthy Americans. So if you look at it that way, Mitt's taxes seem to add up just fine. He could make the argument; that's why he should seize the narrative. It isn't caving to Democrats to release them. Not only have many in his own party called on him to do it, which you'll hear in a moment, it also lets him take control of the conversation.

After all, what's wrong with being known as one of the most generous people in the country?

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014