WashPost Likes An Unproven Conspiracy Theory...When Harry Reid Is Bashing Romney

On July 19, The Washington Post put Sen. John McCain on the front page calling out the “fringe voices” in the GOP like Rep. Michele Bachmann for circulating a “conspiracy theory” about Huma Abedin.

But on August 2, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unleashed a conspiracy theory to The Huffington Post without a shred of evidence, charging  that Mitt Romney avoided paying taxes for ten years, the Post put that on A-5 and – in a perfect contrast – quoted absolutely no one critical of Reid, Democrat or Republican, insisting that Reid's baseless allegation "resonates with voters."  There is one glaring similarity:

Both stories were written by political reporter Ed O’Keefe.

Their McCain headline was “McCain defends Clinton aide accused by 5 in GOP: Senator decries letter linking Abedin to Muslim Brotherhood.”

The Harry Reid headline was “The latest barb from Reid, a senator famous for them: On Romney’s tax returns, he seizes an issue that resonates with voters.”

O'Keefe's story on Reid began:

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) turned heads this week by suggesting that Mitt Romney is withholding his tax returns because he didn’t pay taxes over a 10-year stretch.

In doing so, Reid burnished his reputation for lobbing occasional stinging insults — and seized on a Democratic attack line that seems to be resonating with voters.

Reid said Tuesday in an interview with the Huffington Post  that he had learned of Romney’s tax history from “a person who had invested with Bain Capital.” But when pressed, he declined to identify the investor or cite any proof for his allegation.

Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson declined to share more information about the investor, saying in an e-mail that “I have no information beyond what he said. If Mitt Romney is upset with Senator Reid’s remarks, there’s a simple way for him to clear up the matter: release his tax returns.”

O'Keefe wrote "The Romney campaign did not respond to requests for comment," and then went back to underlining the "resonance" of the Democrats:

But recent polls suggest that voters expect presidential candidates to be more forthcoming about their taxes: Just over half of voters in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania think candidates should “publicly release several years of tax returns,” according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, the New York Times and CBS News. And a USA Today-Gallup poll published last month found that a majority of Americans — and almost a third of Republicans — think Romney should release more tax information.

Seizing the political momentum, Reid and other Senate Democrats are expected to continue pressing Romney on taxes when the debate on extending George W. Bush-era tax cuts begins after this month’s congressional recess. Aides said Reid may also make the point in his speech next month at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

It's "seizing the political momentum" to make unproven accusations? Is that how journalists stand up for a political discourse based on evidence?

O'Keefe wrapped up by saying "whether or not the senator's statement was true" -- and O'Keefe and the Post don't check on these things before circulating them, which suggests they don't really care --  it adds to a long list of remarks that "Republicans call 'foot-in-mouth moments.'" Only the Republicans apparently find it embarrassing to attack Romney without any proof.

You can contact Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton at ombudsman@washpost.com to complain about the glaring double standard on evidence.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis