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Text of a Telegram To Vice President Richard M. Nixon from Senator John F. Kennedy on Fifth Debate

October 23, 1960

With regard to your telegram of today I am glad you have finally accepted my challenge to participate in this debate. I suggested a fifth debate close to the election as a means of keeping the record straight - face to face - and correcting any distortions made in the closing days of the campaign. Your telegram to me tonight clearly indicates I was right in calling for such a debate - for the distortions of the record concerning my position on Cuba exceed any others you have made during this campaign. You have developed the technique of having your writers rewrite my statements, using those rewritten statements and attacking me for things I have never said or advocated. This is certainly the record with regard to the speeches you have been making in the past 45 hours on Cuba. I have never advocated and I do not now advocate intervention in Cuba in violation of our treaty obligations and in fact stated in Johnstown, Pa., that whatever we did with regard to Cuba should be within the confines of international law. What I have advocated is that we use all available commuuications - radio, television, and the press - and the moral power of the American Government - to let the forces of freedom in Cuba know that we believe that freedom will again rise in their country. I will be pleased to discuss the whole record of Cuba with you - how this island only 90 miles from our border fell into Communist hands and the sorry record of administration inaction with regard to Cuba. I cannot understand, however, why you wish to place a gag on the press in this final debate. Cuba is important but so are our relations with the Soviet Union, the problems of Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Equally important are the domestic issues which you and the Republican Party seem to wish to bury during this campaign - minimum wage, medical care for the aged, aid to education, and the rising rate of unemployment; only a week ago you stated you were going to talk about Quemoy and Matsu every day for the final 3 weeks of the campaign. Now it is Cuba. These latter two are important issues but I think the American people want and deserve to hear us discuss all the important problems which face our country and to limit the subject of the fifth to one country would be to subvert the purpose of such a debate.

I have instructed Mr. Leonard Reinsch of my staff to meet with your staff and attempt to further work out details for this important fifth debate.


John F. Kennedy, Text of a Telegram To Vice President Richard M. Nixon from Senator John F. Kennedy on Fifth Debate Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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