Television's First Presidential Debate

Updated July 24, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The Question:

When was the first televised debate between two presidential candidates?

The Answer:

The first series of presidential debates between two candidates ever televised was the Richard M. Nixon-John F. Kennedy debates during the 1960 campaign.

The first of those four debates was held on Sept. 26, 1960 at the Chicago television studios of WBBM, a CBS affiliate. The three remaining debates were held on Oct. 7, 13, and 21, respectively.

The largest political audience to date-approximately 70 million people-tuned in on the evening of Sept. 26 to watch that historic telecast, which was carried by all three networks.

The Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago has created a fantastic site to learn more about the history of televised presidential debates, beginning with the Nixon-Kennedy debates.

The first televised debate that included an incumbent president and a candidate for the office occurred on Sept. 23, 1976. On that evening President Gerald R. Ford debated Democratic hopeful Jimmy Carter at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia, Penn.

-The Editors

Sources +
See also: