MOUNT PLEASANT - Ross Perot may have tackled a lot of problems in his career, but Lowcountry gnats - aka "no-see-ums" - had the upper hand Friday.
"Is this going to get better?" the 84-year-old billionaire griped aloud during a visit to the proposed National Medal of Honor Museum site at Patriots Point where he was constantly and repeatedly bug-harassed.
Beyond the gnat issues, supporters of the museum say Perot's visit and involvement mark an even bigger step towards meeting the museum's $100 million price tag. While Perot wouldn't discuss his exact financial support, supporters said it is a high-digit number.
"It's going to be millions, yes, it's going to be big bucks," said Rudi Gresham, a longtime Perot supporter who is also the public affairs adviser to the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation.
Perot's stop was short, lasting about an hour during lunchtime. He addressed a small press conference, visited the current museum inside the carrier Yorktown, and spoke of his many efforts in support of American service personnel, some of which date as far back as the Vietnam War.
"I get calls at 2 in the morning on medical problems," he said of helping wounded veterans from the recent conflicts.
He also touched on the assistance he's given in the wake of the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 and wounded more than 30.
"You remember that crazy doctor?" he said of the convicted shooter, former Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan.
Perot's visit came as officials with the museum project say they are undertaking a national campaign of fundraising events, including in Dallas and Washington, D.C., and with nationally known celebrities on board.
"We have to be honest," Gresham said. "We have to go outside of the state to get this thing done."
Overtures have been made to Hollywood actors, Gresham said, naming Clint Eastwood and Robert Duvall.
When the new museum is completed, supporters envision it developing into an elaborate $100 million attraction adjacent to the harbor near the Patriots Point parking area. The site would measure about 100,000 square feet and would include exhibit galleries, a chapel and space for classrooms, meeting areas and conferences. If the schedule goes as planned, the museum could open within the next four years.
Perot said this was at least his second visit to Patriots Point but was the first since the 1990s.
Back then, Perot was a popular face in the state. He twice ran for president and made several stops here during his independent run in 1992 versus Republican George H.W. Bush and eventual winner Democrat Bill Clinton. He tried briefly again for the White House in 1996.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.
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