NPR Touts 'Marquee' Harry Reid Boxing Against Romney's Vulnerability on Tax Returns

At the same time that NPR was offended enough to go “truth squadding” on Romney’s advertisements attacking Obama's weakness on welfare, NPR’s Don Gonyea reported on Harry Reid’s unsubstantiated charges of Romney tax evasion by leaving the clear impression that Reid is effectively punching away at a Romney “vulnerability” and sees nothing to lose. He certainly can’t seem to lose with NPR.

On Wednesday's All Things Considered, NPR anchor Melissa Block introduced the story as “Don Gonyea reports on the increasingly ugly fight,” but that was applied to both Reid and the Republicans. But their online headline was “In Brawl Over Romney's Tax Returns, Harry Reid Gets Marquee Billing.” Like a boxer, get it?

Gonyea’s tone was that Harry Reid was just being Harry Reid, which somehow doesn’t lack charm. His charge that Romney paid no taxes for 10 years “was overshadowed by Reid's other claim that day, that Romney couldn't be confirmed as dog catcher given his secrecy over taxes. Both statements were seen as classic Harry Reid. David Damore is a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Reid's home state.”

DAVID DAMORE: You know, Reid has what we call in Nevada Reid-isms, sort of saying things that oftentimes he has to walk back.

GONYEA: Damore remembers the time Reid called President George W. Bush a loser, or when he labeled former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan a political hack. But he says the attack on Romney seems different.

DAMORE: Usually these are sort of one-line comments here. This seems to be more of a full-court press on Romney. He seems to see a vulnerability here and keeps pushing it.

Notice they leave out that “Reid-ism” when Reid said the Iraq War was lost. Gonyea did not explain that his academic source Damore has written an article titled “Harry Houdini Escapes the Wave” to tout Reid’s “uncanny determination and skill” in beating the media-mangled Sharron Angle in 2010. Reid “executed a political strategy meticulously constructed to cover come the most unfavorable political environment in a a generation....like a modern-day Houdini, Harry Reid escaped the 2010 wave.”

The rebuttal in the story came from Sean Hannity interviewing Romney, who said Reid should “put up or shut up.” Gonyea portrayed this as still boosting Reid:

GONYEA: Three days later, on this past weekend's Sunday morning network TV talk shows, the topic was still hot. This time it was Romney's surrogates going on the attack against Reid including, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos.

REINCE PRIEBUS: And listen, I know you might want to go down that road. I'm not going to respond to a dirty liar who hasn't filed a single...

GONYEA: Though, of course, he did go down that road and by calling Reid a dirty liar, Priebus gave the storyline yet another boost.

Priebus didn’t even get to finish his sentence before Gonyea talked over it. Priebus said “I'm not going to respond to a dirty liar who hasn't filed a single page of tax returns himself. Complains about people with money but lives in the Ritz Carlton here down the street.” NPR doesn't let Republicans finish their arguments.

Gonyea concluded with his Reid-boosting academic:

GONYEA: David Damore, the UNLV professor, says there's little incentive for Reid to back down. He's not up for re-election until 2016.

DAMORE: So I don't think he sees any downside to this. Again, he's driving the narrative for these last couple of weeks.

GONYEA: It also means Romney is doing battle on this with someone who's not even on the ballot, who most Americans don't really know. And in Senator Reid, a former amateur boxer who clearly enjoys a good fight.

To underline their anti-Romney ardor, NPR then turned to Jim Zarroli for a story on a crackdown on offshore tax havens. NPR anchor Audie Cornish announced: “Mitt Romney has acknowledged that until 2010 he kept money in a Swiss bank account. Romney says he wasn't trying to hide the money and that he reported it to the government. He closed the account at a time when the federal government was in the middle of a major crackdown on offshore tax havens. As NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, that crackdown has made it harder for Americans to hide their money overseas.”

Zarroli’s story didn’t mention Romney, but was dominated by the “Tax Justice Network” and “Citizens for Tax Justice,” neither of which were described as liberal in any way. “The amount of money hidden in offshore tax havens is staggering. The Tax Justice Network recently put it at as much as $31 trillion worldwide, but that's just an educated guess. By their very nature, tax havens are secretive.” NPR clearly meant to augment Harry Reid’s attack with this follow-up piece.

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