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Perot angrily defends himself, attacks reporters

By HARIHAR KRISHNAN

DALLAS -- Independent presidential candidate Ross Perot angrily hit back at reporters Monday for insisting on proof for his new allegations of Republican 'dirty tricks' to smear his daughter and disrupt her wedding.

The Texas billionaire stepped into the daily briefing unannounced after watching his son being grilled by the media for proof of the allegations broadcast Sunday on CBS' '60 Minutes' program.

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While defending his allegations, Perot said President Bush called him for a meeting after he pulled out of the race in July to seek Perot's support. Perot said the meeting, scheduled for Aug. 4, was subsequently canceled after Perot informed a Bush aide he would insist on first discussing the alleged scheme to smear his daughter.

Perot's said on the '60 Minutes' show that one of the reasons he bowed out of the presidential race last July was because he was told by unnamed sources there would be an attempt to smear his daughter's reputation and disrupt her wedding. He said elsewhere there also was the possibility of his telephone being tapped. He told CBS that at the time he determined the risk to him and family was too great and that was why he bowed out.

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'The day I dropped out I got a call from the President of the United States, who wanted to meet immediately and wanted me to try to get all my volunteers to support the Republican Party,' Perot said.

'He (Bush) wanted to have a meeting. I agreed to a meeting on August the 4th,' Perot said. Perot said he was later contacted by a person representing the President but did not identify the person.

'That person called me, I told him, I said, 'There's one thing that's going right at the top of the agenda, and that is this plan to smear my daughter at her wedding. And we're not going to talk about anything till he (Bush) and I get eye-to-eye and talk about that'. A few days later they canceled the meeting. Noboy ever responded on that issue.'

Perot said after his daughter's wedding, another 'senior-level adviser to the president' wanted to talk to him.

'We visited. I made it crystal clear to him that this was one bridge that the president and I had to cross. I never heard a word back,' Perot said.

The new allegations of 'dirty tricks' come on the heels of an ABC television report last week that suggested there was no corroboration to his earlier claim that the North Vietnamese had sent five armed Black Panthers to assassinate him in 1970 because of his involvement in the POW-MIA issue.

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The morning briefing began when his son, Ross Perot Jr., began answering questions from reporters who wanted some proof of the 1970 incident or for the allegations on the '60 Minutes' show.

The senior Perot then walked into the room, saying he had been watching the proceedings on the Cable News Network. He began attacking reporters for continuing to harp about proof of his charges and not about the issues facing the country.

On the alleged assassination plot, Perot kept insisting the proof was his own word and that of Murphy Martin, his media advisor and a former television reporter, and another person now working for a Dallas oil firm.

But Perot said he himself did not witness that incident because he was asleep but had been told by someone at his home about it and that a guard dog had bitten one of the alleged assailants. He said hospitals were even checked but the wounded man could not be located.

'It happened in the middle of the night, there was one man and a dog. I am not going to get into that with you because it is none of your business,' he said.

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Asked if reporters could talk to the person who witnessed the incident, Perot again angrily replied it could not be done 'because it's none of your business. It has nothing to do with the presidential campaign. I mean if you want to know if I am telling the truth, I've given you multiple reputable people.

'You are pursuing this like I just stole money from the U.S. Treasury. Wait a minute, I find it fascinating that you will pursue this story with far greater intensity than you will stories where billions of taxpayers money were wasted on (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein.'

At one point, Perot said, 'I am sick and tired of you people questioning my integrity.'

Perot asked his son, Ross Jr., to confirm the 1970 incident occurred. Ross Perot Jr., who said he was 13 years old at the time and did not witness the incident because he was asleep, said it did happen and he remembered his father telling him about it the next morning.

'I don't have to prove anything to you people to start with,' Perot said. 'No. 2, I've given you proof that would satisfy any reasonable group in the country. Was I making up stories? No. That's all you need to know.'

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White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater called the Texas billionaire 'a paranoid person,' and challenged the media to investigate his allegations.

'He seems to have latched on to this theory, much like people latch on to these UFO theories, and he seems to believe it,' Fitzwater said on arriving in Denver with Bush for a campaign appearance.

'This man might be president of the United States (and) continues to make these ludicrous charges,' Fitzwater said.

Former Secretary of State James Baker also told reporters that Barbara Bush herself told Perot and his wife personally at the last debate that there were 'no dirty tricks' and nothing factual about those allegations.

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