WASHINGTON -- Amy Carter's concern about nuclear warfare and the strategic arms limitation treaty appears to have rubbed some viewers of the Reagan-Carter debate the wrong way.
Rebutting a reply by Ronald Reagan on negotiating a weapons treaty with the Soviet Union, President Carter mentioned his 13-year-old daughter, apparently to show the extent of interest in the subject.
'I think to close out this discussion, I think it would be better to put into perspective what we are talking about. I had a discussion with our daughter, Amy, the other day before I came here to ask her what the most important issue was. She said she thought it was nuclear weaponry, and the control of nuclear arms,' Carter said.
Some reporters covering the debate in Cleveland groaned at the remark, a debate professor thought it was an unfortunate slip, and a number of callers to a coast-to-coast talk show suggested it was a memorable gaffe.
'The general consensus was that it was absolutely outrageous,' said Jack Kirby, producer of the Mutual Broadcasting System's 'The Larry King Show,' which took calls from its national audience from 2 until 5:30 a.m. EST Wednesday, a few hours after the debate concluded.
'It was compared to (President Gerald) Ford's Polish remarks. This could be Carter's great gaffe.'
Kirby said a surprising number of the calls were about Amy and most were concerned that 'Carter being president would invoke a 13-year-old child and use (her) politically. Most people thought it absurd.'
James Golden, debate professor at Ohio State University, said, 'It's that kind of statement that lends itself to ridicule. I think it was an unfortunate statement and one that he probably wishes he hadn't made. It was probably the only unfortunate statement made during the night.'
Campaigning in Jackson, Tenn., Wednesday, first lady Rosalynn Carter told of the derivation of Carter's remark but without much explanation.
'Did you hear Amy's dad talking about her last night?' Mrs. Carter asked a crowd of 4,000. 'It all started when she asked him, 'What is a megaton?''
William Albers, Virginia coordinator for the Carter-Mondale campaign, said, 'I think a lot of fathers and daughters related to that (the Amy remark).'
But independent presidential opponent John Anderson twitted Carter for using his daughter in a major debate.
Campaigning in Philadelphia, Anderson, who was excluded from the Cleveland debate, said his mistake was in not talking to Amy.
'If I could have gotten Amy's ear, I would have said, 'Honey, you just tell your daddy it's important for the American people to hear John Anderson's ideas on nuclear proliferation too.''
But he said he might have had to 'disappoint little Amy a little bit because I would have ... said that your daddy who professes this great passion for non-proliferation _ he did sell 38 tons of enriched uranium to India a few weeks ago.'