By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Perot was undoubtedly referring to Scott Barnes. At the time, Barnes claimed that two Republicans (one of whom he identified as a staff assistant in opposition research, Joe Deoudes) had shown him 35 fake photos of two of Perot's daughters, Carolyn and Nancy, each in compromising lesbian-related situations. Many of the pictures were, Barnes contended, set in the parking lot of a country club frequented by the Perot family. When Barnes was unable to reach Taylor, he telephoned Perot's office and passed the information to one of his secretaries.
On Thursday, July 16, Perot dropped out of the presidential race.
Taylor did not return Barnes' calls until Sunday, July 19. That was the first time he learned about the photos.
Barnes now, incredibly, admits that no such pictures existed and that he concocted the story. But he insists he did so on explicit instructions from Perot himself, so that Perot would have an excuse for his withdrawal from the race. It is hard to imagine, though, that Perot, so concerned about the privacy and security of his family, would encourage anyone to circulate such a story.
It is likely that both Perot and Taylor believed the pictures existed, although they never asked to see copies.
Yet Perot gave 60 Minutes a second reason for his withdrawal. "I received multiple reports that there was a plan...to actually have people in the church at the wedding to disrupt her wedding."
At the time he dropped out of the race, Perot told several close associates about his fear that the Republicans would disrupt his daughter's wedding. But both Barnes and Taylor insist they were not the source of that story. "The wedding allegation is strictly from Ross," says Barnes. "The first time I heard about the wedding was on 60 Minutes. It did not come from me."
"You see," says Taylor, "Barnes never mentioned the wedding to me at all. I know he made no reference to the wedding, because when I heard Perot say it on 60 Minutes, my first reaction was, 'Well, I wonder where he got that from?'" Perot refuses to identify any sources.
Although Perot was out of the race, Barnes was not finished with his rather startling tales. When he spoke to Taylor on Sunday, July 19, in addition to telling him about the alleged photos, he revealed that the Republicans wanted him to gain access to Perot's office in order to wiretap certain phones. To support his tale, he produced a floor plan of Perot's Dallas office, together with several telephone numbers, and faxed them to Taylor (who, in turn, sent a copy to Perot). His new assignment, he claimed, was to get enough information to ensure that Perot did not re-enter the race. (Like the story of the composite photo, Barnes now insists that Perot had given him the floor plan, as well as the list of telephone numbers.)
Perot did not initially believe Barnes' latest story, since he did not recognize the telephone numbers. "Then I went back to the telephone switchboard," recalls Perot, "and the lady said, 'Those are for your financial matters.' This guy [Barnes] had things that some guy who was broke in Arizona couldn't get." Some of the numbers were direct lines Perot used to call his children.
In late July, Barnes told Taylor that he had traveled to Mexico at the request of the Republicans and there had met two unidentified men who offered $150,000 to wiretap Perot's office. (Actually, he had gone to Mexico for a friend's bachelor party.)
He soon called Taylor and played a tape of a conversation in which an unidentified man asked him to bug Perot's phone lines and warned him "to keep your mouth shut."
Perot received a copy of that tape the next day, courtesy of Taylor. After playing it, he called Taylor.
"David, I just listened to this thing. What do you make of it?"
"I don't know," Taylor said. "What about that telephone number?"
"Well, that is a number in my system. I am going to talk to someone called Jim Siano, and he is going to be contacting you."
James Siano was a former FBI agent (he had been in charge of counterintelligence at the Dallas office) who had done some private investigative work for Perot. Perot hoped Siano might be able to make sense of Barnes' allegations.
Perot sent Siano to visit Taylor at his home in Leesburg, Virginia, on Sunday, August 2. They talked on Taylor's rear porch for nearly five hours. "He [Taylor] had checked all this out," recalls Siano. "And as far as he was concerned, there was a lot of credence to this."
Perot had left for a vacation in Bermuda, but he spoke to Siano by telephone. They debated, says Siano, whether "Barnes and Taylor could be working together on something."
But Perot insisted that these were strong allegations that should be pursued. When Siano suggested taking the matter to the FBI, Perot resisted, evidently concerned because the agent in charge of the Dallas FBI office, Oliver "Buck" Revell, had been responsible for the FBI investigation that had resulted in a complete exoneration of Richard Armitage. Instead, Perot directed Siano to the Dallas police, and personally arranged an appointment for him with the chief of police, Bill Rathburn.