For its Nov. 8, 2000, publication, The Washington Times tore up its front page four times to report that the presidential election was too close to call, that George W. Bush had won, that Al Gore had won (in an unpublished edition) and that, finally, the presidential election was too close to call.
The Times was not alone.
On election night, Mr. Gore conceded defeat to Mr. Bush. But around 3:30 a.m. EST, the vice president placed a second call to the Texas governor.
“Let me make sure I understand,” Mr. Bush said. “You’re calling me back to retract your concession?”
“You don’t have to get snippy,” Mr. Gore said.
The election of 2000 sparked the biggest electoral controversy since Rutherford B. Hayes won in 1876 with fewer popular votes than Samuel J. Tilden. Like the Republican Hayes, Mr. Bush received the most votes in the Electoral College, and like the Democrat Tilden, Mr. Gore won the majority of popular votes.
A showdown was set into motion, and all eyes turned to Florida, where confusion over “butterfly ballots” misdirected some residents to vote for candidates they opposed.
Mr. Gore filed legal challenges, and during five weeks of recriminations and round-the-clock media scrutiny, multiple recounts of paper ballots were conducted, introducing the public to the term “hanging chad.”
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris — who had been appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush — certified the election in favor of her boss’ brother.
The U.S. Supreme Court later supported her certification, and Mr. Gore dropped his challenges. Various election reforms such as touch-screen voting machines emerged from the 2000 imbroglio.
Mr. Bush went on to be re-elected in 2004 by defeating Sen. John F. Kerry with the majority of the electoral vote and the popular vote.