DALLAS -- President Bush denounced Ross Perot for reportedly authorizing investigations that may have included the Bush family, saying such activity was not "particularly American."
"There's something not very pleasant about all this," Mr. Bush told reporters at the White House. "If the reports are true of investigating my children, my family . . . I don't think that's particularly American."
Perot aide Tom Luce disputed a story in Sunday's Washington Post, saying Mr. Perot has never investigated either Mr. Bush or members of his family.
Mr. Luce said that story and previous reports linking Mr. Perot to investigations of private residents were based on "distortions" that amount to "character assassination."
The president's comments, his strongest to date, topped a day of mounting Republican attacks on the still-unofficial independent presidential candidate. Although Bush advisers publicly insisted they were only responding to media inquiries, privately they acknowledged that the revelation of Mr. Perot's investigations fits into their who-do-you-trust-to-be-president strategy.
Other leading Republicans also joined the fray. "Imagine Ross Perot having the IRS, the FBI and the CIA under his control. Who would be investigated next?" said Vice President Dan Quayle.
The president said it was fine for Mr. Perot to investigate him, but he raised strong objections to any inquiry involving his family.
"If he was having my children investigated, that is beyond the pale. Leave my kids alone, I say. They are good honest boys and daughter," Mr. Bush said in an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters to be aired Friday on "20/20." "I am sick about it, if it's true. I think the American people will reject that kind of tactic."
The Post reported that in 1986 Mr. Perot gave Mr. Bush a friendly warning that he had been told that two sons were involved in improper activities. Mr. Bush sent Mr. Perot a short note defending his sons, the paper said.
White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater called the Post report "shocking and frightening to see that kind of bizarre behavior on the part of a presidential candidate."
He also said Mr. Perot, angered by a report on missing soldiers in Vietnam, had phoned him in the mid-1980s to demand that he do something about ABC White House correspondent Sam Donaldson.
Mr. Donaldson said Mr. Perot did call him about a report he did in 1987, but did not threaten him.
Perot spokesman James Squires said Mr. Perot tried only to get the White House to correct information it had given Mr. Donaldson that he believed was inaccurate.
"He asked the White House to get the truth out," Mr. Squires said. "He said he threatened no one."