White House: Sen. Reid 'speaks for himself' on Romney tax returns

The White House on Monday distanced President Obama from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s comments that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes in a decade.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Monday that Reid (D-Nev.) “speaks for himself” and had spoken on the issue without any guidance from Team Obama.

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“He certainly speaks for himself,” Carney said, adding that Obama hasn't expressed an opinion on Reid's recent comments.

But Carney said Reid’s comments speak to a “broader question” about the president’s views on income taxes, saying that a “tradition” which “has been in place since 1968 of candidates for the president releasing multiple years of their tax returns is an important one.” 

“You know, it’s not always every candidate’s favorite part of the process, but it’s a tradition that’s important,” Carney said. “It’s valuable to the American people as they decide who should be president. So that’s why the president has put forward his financial information, his tax returns when he was a candidate, and believes that that’s an important tradition.

In an interview last week, Reid claimed a Bain Capitol investor told him Romney had not paid any taxes in 10 years. That’s why, Reid said, Romney has refused to release more than the roughly two years' worth of tax returns he's already shared.

Romney and other Republicans have ripped Reid over the remarks, noting that he has no evidence to back up his claims. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called Reid a “dirty liar” for the remarks.

Reid has refused to divulge the name of the businessman he said was a Bain investor.

But some Democrats have rushed to Reid’s defense. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday said Reid was telling the truth. Reid’s comments have dominated the news cycle and kept attention on Romney’s tax records, which Democrats see as advantageous for Obama.

Carney maintained that Reid has been known to speak his mind on issues. When pressed if it was appropriate to weigh in on the Romney matter, the White House spokesman said, “I would ask your question of Sen. Reid.”

“Only Senator Reid knows his source, which he has discussed, and I would refer you to that,” Carney said.

This story was updated at 1:22 p.m.