Independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson today accused President Carter of continually "politicizing" the Iranian hostage situation to benefit his reelection campaign.
"I think the president . . ., despite his self-righteous [statements] about other people using that issue in a political way, has politicized it," Anderson said at a news conference here tonight.
Anderson, while saying that he "would not want to carry the responsibility of saying anything that would delay for one day the release of the hostages," who have been held almost a year, did question the timing -- with the presidential election less than two weeks away -- of current efforts to obtain their release.
He charged that Carter's use of the hostages as an excuse to avoid debating Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in the Democratic primaries, and the president's return to the campaign trail in late spring "without any charge in the situation," raised serious questions about Carter's motives.
"Sure, I think it's legitimate to say that constituted politicizing," Anderson said.
Anderson, here to speak before the Toledo Teachers Federation, which has endorsed him, refused to speculate on whether the current negotiations about the 52 hostages would help or hinder Carter's reelection chances. "I want the hostages home," Anderson said. "I'm not going to consider whether it damages or enhances Mr. Carter's chances."
In another development today, Anderson abandoned the idea of trying to purchase 30 minutes of network television time after Tuesday's debate between Carter and Ronald Reagan, to which Anderson has not be invited.
At a meeting Tuesday night, Anderson strategists decided the late hour of the League of Women Voters' debate, scheduled to begin at 9:30 p.m., made it impractical to broadcast a response after it, according to spokesmen.
The campaign, however, is going to try to buy time for spot commercials on all three networks before and after the debate. Strategists at the meeting were also told by campaign counsel Mitchell Rogovin that a legal challenge to the debate under equal-time provisions would have little chance of success.
Anderson strategists have blocked out the entire day of the candidate's schedule next Tuesday for activities related to the debate. But they are still unsure of how to respond to it.
"I don't know what I can do now but speak out frankly and caustically," Anderson told a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington. "We will be working overtime between now and Tuesday next to see if there is some more dramatic way to make our point."
Anderson, who failed to gain any popularity through an earlier debate with Reagan, charged that the major party nominees should be "embarrassed" for using the debates as a political football.
"They look at the debate as simply a political stratagem for promoting their own ambitions and not as a forum for discussing issues," he said.
Later, Anderson flew here to address the Toledo Federation of Teachers, one of the few unions in the country to endorse his independent candidacy. He praised the large local union for its "courage" in endorsing him.