Jim Lehrer interviewed former President Ford as part of a special report called "Debating Our Destiny" highlighting key moments of presidential debates over the last 40 years. The following are excerpts.
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Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre was chosen as the site for the first debate. Unlike the four Kennedy-Nixon meetings broadcast from closed television studios, this and the ones that follow were held before a live audience.
When the three major television networks switched live to the Walnut Street Theatre on September 23, 1976, the two major candidates for president of the United States already were in place and ready to debate.
EDWIN NEWMAN, Moderator:
Good evening. I'm Edwin Newman, moderator of this first debate of the 1976 campaign…
This, I thought, would be the most difficult debate for me, because, in 1975, we had the worst recession in 40-some years, so I knew that Governor Carter was going to attack me on our economic policies.
He says he's learned how to match unemployment with inflation. That's right. We've got the highest inflation we've had in 25 years right now, and we've got the highest unemployment we've had under Mr. Ford's administration since the Great Depression.