"Ford, Carter Open Debate On Sept. 23"

Washington Post, Sept. 2, 1976; A1; By Jules Witcover   

On September 1, the League of Women Voters and representatives from the Ford and Carter campaigns officially announced that they would hold three televised debates before the November election. It had been Republican President Ford who had initiated the debate challenge earlier that summer, and with the LWV assuming sponsorship, negotiations on the location and format had proceeded with relative easy (compared to the 1960 debate negotiations). Still, uncertainty remained. The excluded third party candidates were threatening to sue the League, and the Democratic National Committee had asked the Supreme Court to review the FCC ruling that exempted debates from the equal-time clause of the Communications Act. And it would be another three weeks before all three television networks would even agree to air the first debate.

 

"CBS Joining Debate Coverage"

Washington Post,Sept. 21; A3; By Stephen Isaacs  

Controversy accompanied the first presidential debates since 1960, and the primary controversy concerned the role of the candidates themselves in choosing the panel of questioners and in placing restrictions on the television format. In fact, the television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) protested so strongly a prohibition on showing reaction shots from the audience that they considered boycotting the debates altogether. In the end, the networks did air all three debates, but questions lingered about who should control the debate format. Another controversy concerned third party candidates. Former Senator Eugene McCarthy, former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, and Socialist candidate Peter Camejo all protested the FCC denial of their equal-time claims.

 

"Carter on Sin: Joining Bible and Blunt Talk, Candidate Outlines Beliefs"

Washington Post, Sept. 21, 1976; A1; By Robert G. Kaiser  

In an interview with Playboy magazine conducted early in his presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter frankly and graphically discussed his beliefs about sexuality, adultery, and Christian faith. Although his controversial comments would not cost him the election, the interview did become an issue in the press for much of the fall campaign. It was not until the third debate that a question was put to Carter on the controversy. He noted that had he to do it over, he would chose not to conduct the interview at all.

 

"President: Would Protest If Susan Had an Affair"

Washington Post, Sept. 21, 1976; A6  

Jimmy Carter's comments in Playboy magazine made adultery a campaign topic. Neither President Ford nor Jimmy Carter was accused of committing adultery themselves, but their views on the subject were of interest to the press. Susan Ford, the 19-year old daughter of President and Betty Ford, was the topic of Ford's comments featured in this article.

 

"Playboy Interview Assailed, Defended"

Washington Post, Sept. 22, 1976; A12; By Janis Johnson  

Commentary on the possible political fallout from Jimmy Carter's use of "salty" language in his interview with Playboy magazine.

 

"36% Haven't Settled on A Candidate"

Washington Post, Sept. 23, 1976; A4; Political Notebook 

Underscoring the supposed importance of the 1976 debates, poll information indicated on the eve of the first that 36% percent of voters had not decided on whom to vote for.

 

"Ford Wins Debate in TV Poll, 39-31;
30% Call It a Tie"

Washington Post, Sept. 24; A1; By Haynes Johnson & Andy Wallace  

Johnson's commentary on the first debate characterized the first debate as rather "dull," and below expectations. Wallace commented on the 'instant polling' done by the Roper organization, the results of which were announced on the air a few minutes before the debate actually ended. An instant Roper poll conducted after the second debate would show Jimmy Carter the winner at 40% to Ford's 30%.

 

"TV Audio Failure Brings First Debate to a Sudden Halt"

Washington Post, Sept. 24; By Jules Witcover  

Despite intensive preparations, the first debate between Ford and Carter was marred by technical failure. As Carter was in mid-answer, the sound cut off, not to be resumed for 27 minutes. Witcover noted, "It was a bizarre scene in the [Philadelphia Walnut Street Theatre], not only seeing the debate halted but watching the two candidates, and particularly the President of the United States, so completely immobilized for nearly half an hour."

 

"Carter Hits 'Serious Blunder' by Ford"

Washington Post, Oct. 8, 1976; A1; By David S. Broder  

Foreign policy was thought to be a strength of incumbent president Gerald Ford; however, his remarks on Eastern Europe reinforced the image of an out-of-touch, incompetent administration. Carter took full advantage of Ford's "gaffe," noting, "This claim of freedom is a cruel hoax upon millions of Eastern Europeans who have lived under Soviet domination for their entire lives."

 

"Ford's Remarks Startle Europeans; Poles Among the Most Bemused"

Washington Post, Oct. 8, 1976; A8; By Peter Osnos  

The media made much of the foreign policy "gaffe" President Ford committed in his second debate with Jimmy Carter. In his remarks, Ford stated that the Soviet Union was not politically dominating the countries of Eastern Europe. The media interpreted this statement as completely contrary to the accepted view, which saw the countries of Eastern Europe, especially Poland, as being well within the Soviet sphere of influence.

 

"The Campaign: The Debates Are a Sham!"

Washington Post, Oct. 22, 1976; A27; By Richard D. Heffner  

Not everyone felt the 1976 presidential debates marked a high point for the democratic process. Richard Heffner sharply criticized the loosening of the equal time clause of the Communications Act by the Federal Communications Commissions. In Heffner's view, the FCC action circumvented the law, and public acceptance of this action was an unhealthy by-product of the national cynicism induced by Watergate.

 

"Last Debate: Substance Over Bumbles"

Washington Post, Oct. 23, 1976; By William Greider  

The first two debates between Incumbent Gerald R. Ford and Former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter were largely thought to be a disappointment. The third and last debate between the two candidates was generally thought to be the most informative for voters. The panel of journalists asked more pointed and difficult questions, including a question to Ford about Watergate and a question, finally, to Carter that referenced his controversial Playboy interview. According to Greider's commentary, Carter won the final debate through his persistent yet measured critiques of the Ford administration's record.