Jimmy Carter UFO Incident is the name given to an
incident in which Jimmy Carter
1977-1981) reported seeing an unidentified flying object while
at Leary, Georgia in 1969.
governor of Georgia, Carter was asked to file a report of the
sighting by the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma, which he did in September 1973.
writing, the report has been discussed several times by both
and by members of the mainstream media
. Carter doubts that the
object was an alien spacecraft.
One evening in 1969, two years before he became governor of
Georgia, Carter was preparing to give a speech at a Lions Club
meeting. At about 7:15
), one of
the guests called his attention to a strange object that was
visible about 30 degrees above the horizon to the west of where he
was standing. Carter described the object as being bright white and
as being about as bright as the moon. It was said to have appeared
to have closed in on where he was standing but to have stopped
beyond a stand of pine trees some distance from him. The object is
then said to have changed color, first to blue, then to red, then
back to white, before appearing to recede into the distance.
Carter felt that the object was self-luminous
, but not a solid in nature. Carter's
report indicates that it was witnessed by about ten or twelve other
people, and was in view for ten to twelve minutes before it passed
out of sight.
In 1973 Carter said
"There were about twenty of us standing outside of a
little restaurant, I believe, a high school lunch room, and a kind
of green light appeared in the western sky.
This was right after sundown.
It got brighter and brighter.
And then it eventually disappeared.
It didn't have any solid substance to it, it was just a
very peculiar-looking light.
None of us could understand what it was."
Speaking in a 2005 interview, Carter states:
"all of a sudden, one of the men looked up and said,
'Look, over in the west!'
And there was a bright light in the sky.
We all saw it.
And then the light, it got closer and closer to
And then it stopped, I don’t know how far away, but it
stopped beyond the pine trees.
And all of a sudden it changed color to blue, and then
it changed to red, then back to white.
And we were trying to figure out what in the world it
could be, and then it receded into the distance."
The exact date on which the sighting occurred has been called into
question by investigators. According to the report that he filed
with the International UFO Bureau four years after the incident,
Carter saw the UFO in October 1969. However investigators have
cited Lions Club records as evidence that it occurred nine months
According to a meeting report that he filed with the Lions Club,
Carter gave his Leary speech on January 6, 1969, not in October.
The setting of his January meeting as described in his report to
the Lions Club also matches the setting that he would later
describe to the media when speaking about his sighting. His report
to the Lions Club made no mention of the sighting itself .
Other evidence uncovered rules out the October 1969 date and is
consistent with January 1969: (1) Carter visited the Leary Lions
Club in his capacity as district governor of the Lions Club. His
term ended in June 1969. (2) The Leary Lions Club disbanded several
months before October 1969 .
Object and investigation
According to an investigation carried out in 1976, some seven years
after the event, most of those present at the meeting either did
not recall the event, or did not recall it as being anything
important. According to Fred Hart, the only guest contacted who
remembered seeing the object: "It seems like there was a
little—like a blue light or something or other in the sky that
night—like some kind of weather balloon they send out or something
... it had been pretty far back in my mind."
While puzzled by the object and its origins Carter, himself, later
said that while he had considered the object to be a UFO—on the
grounds it was unexplained—his knowledge of physics
had meant he had not believed himself to be
witnessing an alien spacecraft
On January 6, 1969 the sky was clear in Leary and the planet
was near its maximum brightness and in
the direction described by Carter. Ufologist Robert Sheaffer
concluded that the object
that Carter witnessed was a misidentification of Venus . This could
also be the Venus "Halo",
,as was discussed on the podcast
Skeptics' Guide To The Universe
#105 in an interview with
Jimmy Carter. In the interview Carter stated that he did not
believe the object was Venus, explaining that he was an amateur
astronomer and knew what Venus looked like. He also explicitly said
he did not believe it was an alien craft and at the time assumed it
was probably a military aircraft from a near by base. Carter also
said that he did not believe that any extraterrestrials have
visited Earth. He also stated he knows of no government cover up of
extraterrestrial visits and that the rumors that the CIA refused to
give him information about UFOs are not true.
The sighting is said to have had a personal impact on Carter and
his perception of UFO and UFO sightings. During his 1976 election
campaign, he is said to have told reporters that, as a result of
it, he would institute a policy of openness if he were elected to
"One thing's for sure, I'll never make fun of people
who say they've seen unidentified objects in the sky.
If I become President, I'll make every piece of
information this country has about UFO sightings available to the
public and the scientists."
Despite his earlier pledge, once elected, Carter distanced himself
from disclosure, citing "defense implications" as being behind his
International UFO Bureau report
Image:Jimmy_Carter_UFO_1.gif|The report Carter submitted (page
1)Image:Jimmy_Carter_UFO_2.gif|The report Carter submitted (page
Early reports in the media
- Carter Once Saw a UFO on 'Very Sober Occasion', by
Howell Raines, Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 14, 1973, p.
- Carter's story appeared in the June 8,
1976 issue of The National Enquirer. This
account contained a number of errors, including incorrectly stating
that the event occurred in Thomaston, Georgia in 1973, and that
sighting was after the club meeting .
- In February 1977, NICAP
republished Carter's original report in UFO Investigator,
but altered his handwritten report to make it appear that it had
been submitted directly to NICAP as a typed document. .
- Learyites leery of Carter's encounter: No one recalls 1970
UFO spotting, by Tom Tiede, Mt. Pleasant Daily
Tribune (Texas), Feb. 2, 1978
- Carter, Jimmy (1969) Report to the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma
- Adams, Cecil (1984) "The Straight Dope Chicago", Review Press
Incorporated, ISBN 0914091549
- The Straight Dope: Did Jimmy Carter really see a
- Hylton, Wil S. (2005) "The Gospel According to Jimmy",
CNN report with Carter near the end
- Harwood, William R (2002) "The Disinformation Cycle: Hoaxes,
Delusions, Security Beliefs, and Compulsory Mediocrity" Xlibris
Corporation ISBN 1401043542
- The Skeptics Guide - Skepticast #105:
- Good, Timothy (1989) "Above Top Secret: The Worldwide U.F.O.
Cover-Up" Quill, ISBN 0688092020
- This day in history - "1973: Carter files report on UFO
sighting", The History Channel
- Sheaffer, Robert (1981) "The Ufo Verdict: Examining the
Evidence", Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-146-0