Richard Ojeda was the second to Democrat to announce that he was seeking the party’s presidential nomination last fall. Then, he unexpectedly dropped out of the race last week.

The 48-year-old former state senator from West Virginia and military veteran spoke to uPolitics.com exclusively about why he decided to withdraw from the race – and why he won’t run as an Independent.

Ojeda revealed that the lack of media coverage was one of the main reasons he decided to end his 2020 presidential campaign.

“Traveling all over the country and receiving donations from people all across this country, we felt that we were getting support from the average citizen out there, which was something that we were really pleased about,” said Ojeda. “But we were not getting any recognition in terms of the media.”

He continued: “I had an interview with Bloomberg and the first question they asked on their radio show was, ‘Elizabeth Warren has $12 million and you don’t have nothing like that. How can you compete?’ Well, Warren and everybody else who has thrown their hat in the ring are getting all the news media.”

Ojeda explained that just a week after announcing his 2020 bid on Nov. 12 — just weeks after losing his run for Congress in West Virginia in the midterm elections — he was interviewed on several top television shows, including MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Meet the Press with Chuck Todd and CNN’s State of the Union with Jake TapperDespite this, Ojeda says that MSNBC ignored his name a month later when listing the 2020 presidential candidates who had announced by that point.

The veteran said he was frustrated and realized it was no coincidence that he was ignored because he was the only candidate who didn’t come from a wealthy background or who had previous experience as a U.S. representative or senator. As a child, Ojeda had been told that anyone could grown up to become president – but now he doesn’t believe that’s true.

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“I was brought up to believe that anybody could become president of the United States of America,” he said. “And what I’ve learned is that unless you have wealth, power and influence, it’s not gonna happen. And that’s a flaw in the system,” he added, calling this reality “unacceptable.”

Ojeda said he also would not consider a third-party run for president in 2020, saying this would only “hurt Democrats” and help Trump win re-election. Many people raised this point this week after former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced he would run in 2020 as an independent candidate.

Ojeda has said that as of now, he will not endorse anybody for president in 2020, although he has spoken to other Democratic candidates like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and businessman Andrew Yang. 

“I think the only thing that Independent candidates do is hurt Democrats,” said Ojeda. “Republicans vote Republican no matter what. Independents take Democratic votes away and if that happens, we’re going to end up handing [the election] back to Donald Trump and that is the absolute worst thing that could ever happen.”

He continued: “[Trump] has been nothing but a train-wreck since he took over. He told everybody that he’s a Christian but he’s not a Christian. He told everybody he’s this genius in business… He’s not. He’s a shyster, is what he is.”

Ojeda continued lambasting Trump by saying he “preyed” on people in West Virginia and other states like Michigan and Ohio by giving them empty promises.

Ojeda is known for being unafraid of speaking his mind despite being a Democrat from a deep-red state. He appeared in Michael Moore‘s recent documentary about Trump and the 2016 election, Fahrenheit 11/9In the film, Ojeda explained among other things how much he disagrees with the view held by many Americans that the U.S. is the greatest nation on Earth. He also supported teachers in West Virginia during their strikes and protests last year. Aside from this, he has strived to help military veterans. Ojeda founded a social services nonprofit called the Logan Empowerment Action and Development (LEAD), which participates in community cleanup efforts, toy drives and helps provide children and poor people with food.

“I’m sick and tired of people telling me that America is the greatest country. Because we can whip your ass?” Ojeda asks Moore in the film.

Last fall, Ojeda ran against Republican Rep. Carol Miller in West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District and lost after receiving 43.6% of the vote. In one campaign ad, Ojeda touted his history of military service in Iraq and Afghanistan and blasted Miller for being an out-of-touch millionaire who did not support veterans sufficiently. He told uPolitics he might consider another bid for senator or governor in West Virginia in the future and that he would work with a political action committee (PAC) that would help support veterans and possibly labor organizations in the meantime.

In the coming days and weeks, uPolitics will be rolling out more exclusive videos of interviews with Ojeda and 2020 presidential candidates.