Was Reid’s Statement Slander?

Esteemed Operative BG, who lately has been ensuring the African Rift Valley continues to rift at the right speed, took time away from that vital tectonic activity to write in:

Awful and Awesome Czar –


Reid says a Bain Capital investor told him that Mitt Romney paid no taxes for ten years.

There are two ways this mysterious Bain person could know that:

1) He works (or worked) for the IRS, or;

2) Someone at the IRS told him.

As a retired IRS employee (please put the axe down…), I know whereof I speak when I say that that IRS employee – if he indeed exists – has probably committed a felony, and could end up in prison for five years for what’s known as an unauthorized access (they call it “UNAX” at the IRS) violation (section 7213 of the Internal Revenue Code).

I also know whereof I speak when I say that every single IRS employee gets UNAX training every single year and is required to sign an affidavit acknowledging he has received and understands that training. You get that UNAX training even if your job doesn’t expose you to the possibility of accessing individual taxpayer records.

More evidence that Reid is lying: He made his initial charge on the Senate floor, where the Constitution provides (article 1, section 6) that “for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.” You can make any kind of accusation you want on the floor of the Senate and not have to worry that you’ll be sued for libel. But note that once Reid gets off the floor and into an interview with the Huffington Post, he hedges his claim by saying he doesn’t know if the allegation is true or not.

Liberals love to cry “McCarthyism” the moment someone lobs some flak at them. If Reid’s attempted character assassination isn’t McCarthyism, the word has no meaning.

Your perspective from the IRS angle is quite interesting; of course, as you suspect, that’s likely overstating the case—the simple explanation is that Harry Reid sociopathically lied to the public.

However, two other points: first, you probably meant slander as opposed to libel, and second, as a political candidate, Mitt Romney is not necessarily allowed the same easy course of action for slander.

In other words, candidates have little legal recourse during an election. They do, of course, have the ability to seek damages against slander or libel, but the requirements are very tough to meet in an election. Chief among them is that the intent of the slander must be to defame Mitt Romney. That seems easy to prove in this case, but actually is quite difficult: the reason Harry Reid said it wasn’t to ruin Mitt Romney, but to [follow this carefully] hurt his chances during the election. In other words, Harry Reid would likely never had made the claim if Romney wasn’t running for president.

Second, the statement must be demonstrably untruthful. Fortunately for Reid, the simplest way for Romney to demonstrably prove Reid wrong…is to release decades of tax returns. That’s often the case with candidates—in order to prove the statement as slander, the candidate has to completely provide total evidence to the contrary. And ultimately, this is what Reid was referring to when he said it’s up to Romney to prove his claim wrong. Reid isn’t actually dumb enough to think the burden of proof is on Romney as a point of order—but he is malicious enough to understand how slander works from that legal angle.

And that’s precisely the brilliance of your other point—Reid has phrased the claim in two ways (which the Czar admits readily he missed): once on the Senate floor, and once to the Internet. You know—just in case.

In case there was any doubt as to Reid’s intention, BG’s observation shows that Reid’s claim clearly was malicious, and not because Reid is an idiot.

About The Czar of Muscovy

Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia by upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.