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Perot: Threats drove me out

Published Oct. 12, 2005

Ross Perot said Sunday he decided to drop his independent presidential bid in July because the Bush campaign was threatening to use dirty tricks to smear his daughter.

In his first stump appearance since re-entering the race Oct. 1, Perot said he had received three reports that the Republicans planned to "publish a false photograph of my daughter" before her Aug. 23 wedding and to disrupt the ceremony.

Perot, who has made other conspiracy allegations without offering proof, provided no evidence of his contention that Republicans sought to embarrass his youngest daughter, Carolyn.

Perot also made the allegations in interviews with CBS' 60 Minutes and the Boston Herald.

Perot acknowledged some of his information came from Scott Barnes, a shadowy figure who has attempted to interest a number of news organizations in his claims of dirty tricks aimed at Perot. But he insisted he would not have withdrawn from the race based solely on information from Barnes.

"I cannot prove that any of that happened. I just got reports. It was a risk I could not take," Perot said.

Perot said he was told by a "prominent Republican friend" whom he refused to name, that the Bush campaign had used a computer to create a "fake photograph" of Carolyn that would have embarrassed her and the family.

He said he was told Carolyn's face was superimposed on the body of another person in an embarrassing situation and it was to be distributed to supermarket tabloids before her wedding. Campaign operatives also planned to be at the church to disrupt the wedding ceremony, he said.

Perot said he abandoned his campaign July 16 to protect his daughter, who encouraged him to rejoin the race after her wedding.

In Sioux Falls, S.D., where President Bush was making a campaign appearance, White House senior aide Margaret Tutwiler said White House chief of staff James Baker met Perot twice and that at one of the meetings Perot said something about Republican dirty tricks. "There was no evidence presented," she said.

Tutwiler said Baker called Perot's allegation "a crazy statement" that was "so far-fetched it was hard to take it seriously."

Robert Teeter, head of the Bush campaign, said Perot's allegations are "absolutely untrue."

Perot, whose standing in the polls has risen faster in recent days than that of Democrat front-runner Bill Clinton or Republican President Bush, was hurt by ill will among supporters when he withdrew in July. His explanation could do much to assuage the hard feelings of supporters who felt hoodwinked when Perot quit after promising to put on a "world-class" campaign.

Perot also said Sunday he was warned the Bush campaign was planning to wiretap his Dallas business phone lines to disrupt his financial dealings. He said he has a videotape showing the wiretapper, a former CIA agent, talking to a Bush campaign aide.

He said he reported the threat to the Dallas office of the FBI. CBS said Buck Reville, head of the Dallas FBI office, said his agents looked into the wiretap claim but found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Many of Perot's allegations have proved to be impossible to confirm independently.

Last week ABC News said it was unable to find any proof of a story Perot often tells _ once under oath in a congressional hearing _ that five men crossed his front lawn carrying rifles at a time he feared the North Vietnamese were trying to kill him.

But there is proof that Perot probed the personal lives of others, including his opponents, business associates, his political supporters and even his family.

Perot's popularity slid last spring after it was disclosed that he seemed to have a penchant for investigating others while claiming to be the victim of widespread political conspiracies.

_ Information from AP, Reuters, New York Times and Scripps Howard News Service was used in this report.