Things You May Not Know About U.S. Presidential Debates


With less than a month to go before the next presidential election, the presidential debate is making headlines. The history of presidential debates is surprisingly short. In the early years, presidential candidates considered it unseemly to campaign, let alone debate their opponents. The first presidential debates required an act of Congress and ensured that all parties received equal air time. Still, there have been those who refused to debate, including Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972. During the debate between President Gerald R. Ford and challenger Jimmy Carter in 1976, the candidates stood silently for nearly half an hour while ABC tried to fix an audio problem. There was also a presidential no-show in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter thought three was a crowd and left Republican nominee Ronald Reagan and Independent candidate John Anderson hanging. A week before election day, Carter finally debated Reagan. It turned out that was the most watched debate in history, with 80.6 million Americans tuning in. Finally, there was one network that decided the debate wasn’t that big a deal. In 2000, NBC opted to bypass the debate in order to air the premiere of Dark Angel, a sci-fi series created by director James Cameron.