The first reference I was able to find in the Last Vegas Sun was a six-sentence Associated Press report on August 2 headlined: “Romney: Claim that he hasn’t paid taxes ‘untrue.’” (Third sentence: “Reid isn’t saying just who made the claim and the Nevada Democrat adds that he isn’t certain it’s true.”) In its own, in-house coverage, the Sun has offered mixed treatment of the man who’s clearly Nevada’s most-powerful politician. In Sunday’s print edition, a story by the paper’s DC correspondent, Karoun Demirjian, was headlined: “Reid has little to lose in goading Romney for his tax returns.” However, the online version of the same story carried a very different header that, rightly, put front and center Reid’s refusal to substantiate his claims: “Reid refuses to back up claim that Romney paid no taxes for a decade.”

Demirjian’s print piece is slugged “Letter from Washington,” so it’s perhaps not surprising that the focus is on the strategy behind—and efficacy of—Reid’s claim. Readers get several graphs of Romney-said, Reid-said, Jon Stewart-said, Democratic strategist-said, Republican consultant-said, and little explicit mention that Reid’s claim remains unsubstantiated (well, Demirjian gets at it in the fourth graph, noting Reid “won’t reveal his source.”)

On August 3rd, Reid’s claims were referenced in a Sun piece on Romney’s North Las Vegas campaign stop and right away described as “second-hand allegations.”

Beyond the news pages, Reid’s claim inspired an August 4th opinion column at the Review-Journal. Columnist Jane Ann Morrison declared Reid’s behavior “irresponsible, not to mention embarrassing to his home state of Nevada.” More from Morrison:

Reid used his high-ranking position to force the media to cover a story based on his word without any proven substance. He did it deliberately, as he does most everything.

He quoted one unnamed source at Bain Capital, and only then did he a find a taker. [The Huffington Post].

If Harry Nobody had said the exact same thing, it wouldn’t have been published in legitimate newspapers without some evidence or a second credible and independent source.

One can debate whether or not The Huffington Post was “forced” to print Reid’s claim (see here and here). But reporters can’t be forced—and shouldn’t be hoodwinked, either—into writing up what amount to mere rumors without telling readers right away and in their own words that the claims in question are evidence-free.

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Jay Jones is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer who has covered political campaigns for various media outlets in the U.S. and for the BBC in the U.K.