(Bloomberg) – Billionaire investor Warren Buffett ripped into Republican Donald Trump Monday over his refusal to release tax returns, his business bankruptcies, and his attack on a fallen soldier’s family, repeating a famous phrase from the McCarthy era, “have you no sense of decency, sir?”
Buffett, campaigning on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, challenged Trump to meet him “any place, any time” with a copy of his tax returns. Buffett said he would bring his returns and the two of them would answer questions from the public. He dismissed Trump’s contention that he couldn’t release them because he’s being audited. Buffett said his return is being examined by the Internal Revenue Service as well.
“You’re only afraid if you’ve got something to be afraid about,” Buffett told a cheering crowd in Omaha. “He’s not afraid because of the IRS, he’s afraid because of you.”
Trump’s refusal to release tax returns — which 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney has called “disqualifying” — would break with 40 years of precedent if he holds his position through the November election, and the issue resonates with voters. In a Bloomberg Politics national poll conducted in June, two-thirds said Trump’s withholding bothered them at least a little.
The 85-year-old Buffett, known as the Oracle of Omaha, joined a chorus of other Clinton backers in criticizing Trump’s record as a businessman, which is a foundation of the Republican nominee’s argument for why he should be elected. Buffett said the public company that Trump set up in 1995 for his hotel, casino and resorts properties lost money every year for a decade and investors lost about 90 cents on every dollar. He said a monkey throwing darts at the stock pages would have had a greater return.
Buffett said the “final straw” was the Republican presidential nominee’s swipe at the heartbroken parents of a Muslim-American war hero killed in Iraq, which has sparked condemnation across party lines.
Responding to a speech at the Democratic convention last week by Khizr Khan, who spoke about the death of his son, Army Captain Humayun Khan, while serving in Iraq in 2004, Trump said he had “sacrificed” for the U.S. by employing “thousands and thousands of people.”
Buffett said he and Trump have done very well while the sons and daughters of other families went to serve the country in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Our families haven’t sacrificed anything,” he said. “I ask Donald Trump, have you no sense of decency sir.”
Trump dismissed Buffett’s criticism in an interview Tuesday with the Fox Business News channel, saying Atlantic City has always been “a tough investment.”
“Well, I don’t care much about Warren Buffett,” Trump said. “I had great timing. I got out and I made a lot of money in Atlantic City over the years. You know, I have to look at myself, I have to look at my company, and I made a lot of money.”
He wasn’t asked about releasing his tax returns.
Clinton is campaigning in solidly Republican Nebraska with Buffett’s help to burnish her credentials with the business community and to try to make the most of the state’s unusual method of apportioning its five Electoral College votes.
The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman and chief executive officer introduced Clinton at a Monday evening rally in Omaha that’s focused on the Democratic nominee’s economic plans. Clinton is seeking to showcase her support from prominent business leaders as she makes a play for the votes of independents and Republicans who are uncomfortable with the prospect of Trump in the White House. Buffett’s fellow billionaire, entrepreneur Mark Cuban, endorsed Clinton at a rally Saturday in Pittsburgh.