Mitt Romney today fielded what he called "small-minded" questions from reporters on his taxes, and claimed that he has never paid less than 13% in taxes in the last ten years.
"I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces – 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of six Americans in poverty – the fascination with taxes I’ve paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face," Romney said at a press conference in Greer, South Carolina.
The former Massachusetts governor and private equity executive has been the target of attacks from Democrats, and even members of his own party, for refusing to release his tax returns. Last month, Romney said he had put out as much in returns as he was going to, but his decision to remain mum on the topic received a firestorm of backlash, notably from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who charges that Romney has not paid his taxes in a decade.
"Harry Reid's charge is totally false. I'm sure waiting for Harry to put up who it was who told him what he says they told him. I don't believe him for a minute by the way," Romney addressed on Thursday.
"I've never paid less than 13 percent,” Romney said, adding that in the most recent year it was closer to 13.6%—or “something like that." He also remarked, "If you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent.” (How that happens when charitable donations are tax-deductible is a follow-up the reporters never got to ask, as Romney ended the press conference shortly thereafter.)
The tax conversation is an awkward one for Romney, exposing both his vast personal fortune and facilitating Democrats’ charge that he’s hiding something by talking about the returns’ contents without actually releasing them. That’s why a vocal chorus of conservatives and Romney supporters has urged Romney to release his tax returns. That’s something he still says he won’t do, even after he raised new questions about them Thursday.
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post warns of trouble for the Romney camp on this issue, then gives it a brand name:
What we’re looking at here is an extraordinary gamble by the Romney camp — call it the “just trust me” campaign. In essence, Romney is betting he can withhold huge amounts of detail about his finances and his major policy proposals without the public knowing or caring about it enough to matter.
You can see the full Romney remarks below.