Blasting a recommendation that he be excluded from the presidential debates, Reform Party candidate Ross Perot charged Wednesday that the Republican and Democratic parties are afraid to allow his message to gain widespread exposure.
Perot said Tuesday’s recommendation by the Commission on Presidential Debates - coupled with TV networks’ refusal to sell him 30-minute blocks of prime time - will make it virtually impossible to compete with President Clinton and Bob Dole.
“The primary reason for keeping us out of the debate and not selling us television time is to protect and preserve Washington’s corrupt political practices,” Perot told about 500 members of the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in his first comment on the recommendation.
“Presidential debates are important because 80 million people watch them. Any candidate who is excluded from these debates cannot present his views to the 80 million voters under any other manner,” he said.
Perot, who is on the ballot in all 50 states and is receiving $29 million in federal campaign financing, said he should be permitted to debate because polls show three-quarters of American voters want him included.
Without his participation, he said, the other candidates will not be forced to address political corruption, “stupid” trade deals and funding for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
“Yesterday, democracy and the rights of the voters in our country had a major setback as a result of the commission’s ruling on presidential debates,” he said. “I expect that probably we should bring in Bosnia and Haiti to send poll-watchers to help us clean up the election process.”
Perot said the commission was rigged because its membership is half Democrat and half Republican and is “funded by foundations and corporations who have a lot at stake here.”
The commission recommended that Perot not be invited into the debates because he has no chance of being elected. That, Perot, said, was precisely the message that Democrats and Republicans want to convey to the voters.
He said exit polls in 1992 “showed that if people had voted their conscience” they would have voted for him.
“Do you know understand why it is so vitally important to get these words in headlines across the country: ‘Perot is unelectable.’ They’ve got to frighten you away from voting for me,” he said.