Bizarre Facts About the History of U.S. Presidential Debates

If there’s one climactic event that tops off election season before U.S. citizens head to the polls, it’s the famous U.S. Presidential Debate. Often serving as a turning point in the election for those undecided voters, here are some of the most bizarre events that have occurred in U.S. presidential debates that you may not have known about.

Doing Long Distance

While one would expect presidential debates to involve the two candidates battling it out at their podiums just feet apart, this hasn’t always been the case. In 1960, candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon faced off nearly 3,000 miles apart. While Kennedy was stationed in a New York City TV studio, Nixon was in a similar-looking studio in Hollywood, California. The moderator and three panellists sat in a separate studio. At least for the candidates, there was no need for an awkward handshake before and after their face-off.

A Moment Of Silence

At the 1976 U.S. presidential debate, TV viewers countrywide believed that their television sets were frozen. This is because Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter stood in silence for 27 minutes as the audio engineers scrambled to fix an audio issue. “I suspect both of us would have liked to sit down and relax while the technicians were fixing the system,” Ford recalled before explaining, “but I think both of us were hesitant to make any gesture that might look like we weren’t physically or mentally able to handle a problem like this.”

The Long Arm Of The Law

You may find it strange that the first presidential debate only took place in 1960. Still, because of other debates that had taken place prior, there was a law, namely The Communications Act of 1934 that required broadcasters to afford all candidates for public office equal air time. In order to limit the broadcasting time to only Kennedy and Nixon in 1960, Congress passed a temporary suspension to this provision of the law, thereby enabling the debate to proceed.

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