ON THIS DAY IN UNITED STATES HISTORY
September 26, 1960
The First Televised Presidential Debate Takes Place in
Chicago Between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy
On this day in 1960, the first televised presidential debate took place between Republican candidate Richard M.
Nixon and Democrat candidate John F. Kennedy.
Although Kennedy is generally thought to have won the debate, many observers believed that in terms of substance it
was pretty close. The big difference was the appearance of the candidates.
Before the debate, Kennedy had spent time campaigning in California where he had obtained a nice tan which was
complimented with some makeup. He was rested, confident and wearing a dark suit which contrasted nicely with the
background on the black and white television screens.
Nixon on the other hand, was still recovering from a serious knee injury where he spent two weeks in the hospital
where he had lost 20 pounds. His shirt didn't fit, he was pale, he refused makeup and he wore a gray suit which
blended with the background.
Many who first heard the debate on the radio thought Nixon had won, while those who watched it on television
considered Kennedy the winner by a rather large margin.
This opened a new chapter in presidential elections in terms of how candidates are presented not just in substance
but in presentation.