September 26, 1960 – First Televised U.S. Presidential Debate

On this day in history, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon faced each other before television cameras in front of an estimated 70 million American viewers. The debate was carried simultaneously by all three major television networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS. It was also carried by the radio networks of all three and by that of the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Most of the news coverage after the debate focused on the appearance of the two candidates. Kennedy was clearly the more photogenic of the two. Not only was Kennedy young and handsome, but Vice President Nixon had been ill, and appeared pale and unwell. “The New York Times” reported that Nixon “dabbed frequently at the perspiration that beaded out on his chin.”

Today’s presidential candidates are much more aware of the importance of appearance in the televised debates.

First Televised Presidential Debate, September 26, 1960

First Televised Presidential Debate, September 26, 1960

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