David Palmer (24 character)

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David Palmer
24 character
David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert).jpg
Dennis Haysbert as David Palmer
First appearance Day 1 – Episode 1
Last appearance Day 5 – Episode 2
Portrayed by Dennis Haysbert
Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Other Appearances 24: The Game
Family Keith Palmer (son)
Nicole Palmer (daughter)
Wayne Palmer (brother)
Sandra Palmer (sister)
Spouse(s) Sherry Palmer (divorced)
Political party Democratic Party

David Palmer, J.D. is a fictional U.S. Senator and later in the series President of the United States portrayed by Dennis Haysbert as part of the television series 24. Palmer served as the show's second-most prominent protagonist, after Jack Bauer, being forced to make hard decisions as President while also facing opposing elements within his own administration. Throughout the series, Palmer's ex-wife Sherry and brother Wayne are both key figures in his administration. He has two children: a son, Keith, and a daughter, Nicole. Palmer was a member of the Democratic Party. He is in the fourth highest number of episodes of any character in the series behind Tony Almeida (115), Chloe O'Brian (125) and main character Jack Bauer (192), portrayed by Carlos Bernard, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Kiefer Sutherland, respectively.


David Palmer graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy from Georgetown University and obtained his Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland School of Law.[1] Prior to his presidency, he served as a Congressman (Representing Baltimore) and Senator from Maryland.[2] Season One also includes a reference to Palmer being a college basketball star, hitting a game-winning shot against DePaul in the Final Four. In 1979 DePaul lost to Indiana St. in the Final Four by a score of 76 - 74.


David Palmer was a United States Senator from Maryland who ran for President. He was elected after the assassination attempts against him on the day of the California primary election were foiled by CTU agent Jack Bauer. Although he initially sought a second term, he bowed out of the race after the opposing candidate learned that David had lied to the chief of police in order to protect his ex-wife, Sherry Palmer, who was under suspicion for involvement in the death of one of his key supporters.

Throughout the series, Palmer's role as President is often vital to the successful foiling of terrorist plots. Palmer is seen as a good leader who makes difficult decisions without much hesitation. On several occasions, his intervention as President and the execution of his Presidential powers helped the Counter Terrorist Unit.

24: Season 1[edit]

David Palmer has had many difficulties due to his political life. In the first season, Palmer was the frontrunner in the race for nomination as Democratic candidate for President of the United States. His life was threatened during the course of Day 1. His political life was threatened on other fronts. His son, Keith, was shown to be a viable suspect in the murder of the man who raped his daughter. Palmer investigated, but found that telling the truth was preferable to covering it up with lies, and took a stand in favor of his son. However, he found out his wife, Sherry, was trying to manipulate him, both in that potential scandal, and the one Sherry tried to create. David was furious with Sherry, and divorced her.

David Palmer also confronted Jack Bauer in person over the events of the first 10 hours of Day 1. He was no-nonsense, demanding a private, unrecorded interview with Bauer. Palmer, believing that Bauer wanted payback for the deaths of his covert operations team, started by demanding that Jack tell him of the other people involved in the assassination attempt on his life. Jack said he was trying to protect Palmer's life, which ultimately led Palmer to realize he was wrong about Jack and his motives. Jack had led the covert operation which ultimately had cost him his team, but Jack had never known of Senator Palmer's authorization of the mission. Jack in fact had carried the guilt over the loss of his team into his personal life, leading to a separation from his wife and an affair with Nina Myers (which admittedly he had recently ended). Senator Palmer realized through this that Jack had been through a bad day. He authorized Jack's reinstatement on Day 1. Palmer went on to defeat his Democratic primary opponent Governor Hodges, a University of Toledo College of Law alumnus, and incumbent President Harold Barnes in the general election.

24: Season 2[edit]

Over a year later, David Palmer is now U.S. president. He is alerted to the threat of a nuclear bomb detonating in the U.S. He also is informed that Bauer, now an inactive agent, has contacts with people who could lead them to the bomb. Jack ignored calls from CTU, but responded to the call from President Palmer. Jack became an active agent again, eventually finding the bomb and detonating it in a remote area. Palmer orders attacks on the three nations responsible, as revealed by an audio known as the Cyprus Recording. Palmer then reverses course, stating that he believes the recordings to be fake, as advised by Jack, but Mike Novick, his Chief of Staff, and the Vice President, Jim Prescott deem this sudden reluctance to attack as an incapability to hold the office. Earlier in the day however, Sherry warned him that there were people in his administration planning to overthrow his presidency. Prescott gathers the Cabinet members, and by one vote, David Palmer is removed from office under the provisions of the 25th Amendment. He sits in a room as a prisoner for the rest of the day, until Jack provides CTU with the evidence that the Cyprus Recording is a forgery, and the attacks are called off by Prescott.[3]

Palmer is reinstated as President, and although Prescott and the Cabinet members who voted against Palmer offer to resign, he does not accept their resignations. Palmer does, however, immediately relieve Mike Novick of his post as Chief of Staff.[3] Palmer then goes out to make a statement to the press, deeming that the threat is over. He shakes hands with many of the onlookers, one of whom happens to be Mandy, a woman hired in Day 1 to assassinate Palmer. She slips a deadly virus into his hand, and he collapses to the ground, panting.[3]

(The extended ending presented in the 24 Season 2 boxset has him get up and say he's all right; this was filmed to stop the extras on location from leaking the real ending.)

24: The Game[edit]

Six months after Day 2, Palmer is recovering from his assassination attempt. Although he makes televised appearances to make it appear as if he is strong, healthy, and running the nation, in actuality, vice president Jim Prescott is acting President. The reality is that Palmer is heavily medicated and uses a wheelchair. However, terrorists attempt to assassinate Prescott, leaving the Vice-President in critical condition. Palmer decides at this point that he is strong enough to take over the responsibilities of being President of United States once again.

A few months later (in the comic, 24: Midnight Sun), after the events of Day 2 and 24: The Game, President Palmer allows the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge near Fairbanks, Alaska. His reasoning behind this controversial decision was so that the nation would no longer be manipulated by the men behind the oil companies (a reference to Max and Peter Kingsley).

24: Season 3[edit]

In Day 3, Palmer is faced with re-election; however, he is still the President, and is faced with many problems during the day. His lover Anne is implicated in a scandal, and although she is innocent, she leaves him. Palmer's brother admits his affair with the wife of one of his biggest supporters, and Palmer is forced to choose life or death for Jack. Palmer chooses death, but eventually is informed of a huge terrorist threat where Jack had to go undercover. He doesn't like it, but his faith in Jack prevails. However, Palmer falters in the end. He brought Sherry Palmer back into his life to help. She does, but in the end David can't agree to her terms (i.e. remarrying her). After she is killed as a result of a political scandal, he ultimately decides not to run for re-election, again preferring his principles over everything else.

At the end of Season 3, after a Presidential debate, he decided to cancel his re-election campaign. His opponent in the election, U.S. Senator John Keeler of Minnesota, became President in Season 4.

24: Season 4[edit]

In Day 4, President Keeler was incapacitated when Air Force One (forced to remain in flight during the current attacks, even though just returning from Mexico) was shot down by terrorists.

Despite his initial hesitation, Vice President Charles Logan, under the 25th Amendment, became Acting President, due to President Keeler's condition (he was in a coma). From the very beginning, Logan showed poor judgement abilities. He demanded the arrest of Jack Bauer, which ruined any opportunity to arrest Habib Marwan. When that raid failed, Logan finally realized he was not up to the task, and sought Mike Novick for counsel.

Mike Novick, Palmer's former Chief of Staff, recommended that Former President David Palmer be brought in to assist the Acting President. Palmer effectively led the events in the latter part of Day 4, but realized that Logan was a weak-willed commander in chief unable to demonstrate Presidential leadership. Logan blamed Palmer when things went wrong, but took full credit when things went his way. After the terrorists were finally brought down, Logan infamously told Palmer, he "played a role", in the season finale.

David Palmer was one of the four people who knew Jack Bauer was alive. He paid his debt to Jack by warning him about the Secret Service agent who was being sent to kill him in order to prevent an international incident with the Chinese (who were demanding the man responsible for the killing of their consul).[4]

24: Season 5[edit]

In the opening moments of Day 5, David Palmer was discussing his memoir with his brother Wayne in his penthouse apartment. Wayne noticed David seemed distracted and worried about a matter that he quickly disregarded. At 7:02 a.m., a sniper from the adjacent building shot through the window, hitting Palmer in the neck, killing him. It was later revealed that the assassin, a man named Haas, had received his orders from Christopher Henderson, who, in secretly working for President Charles Logan and Graem Bauer, also ordered the deaths of Michelle Dessler, Tony Almeida and Chloe O'Brian, although the planned assassinations of Chloe and Tony were unsuccessful (Tony was stabbed by Henderson later on, and was presumed dead). Both Haas and Henderson were killed by Jack Bauer in retribution for their role in the deaths of his friends. David Palmer was initially the primary target for discovering information about someone within the Logan administration who was working with the terrorists.

At the close of the day, David Palmer was given a state procession, as his body was flown back to Washington, watched on by many distinguished guests, such as the President, First Lady and many others. Following a speech by President Logan praising Palmer, the President was taken into custody on orders from the Attorney General who had just heard a recording incriminating Logan in Palmer's assassination.

Dennis Haysbert was disappointed that his character was killed in the fifth season, commenting that it continued an American legacy of killing its popular and charismatic leaders. He did, however, continue to watch the show and remained a fan.[5]


A poll by Blockbuster named Palmer as respondents' Favorite On-Screen President.[6] TV.com visitors also named him the TV President they would most like to see in the Oval Office.[7] Haysbert has also been nominated for a Golden Globe, a Satellite Award and three NAACP Image Awards for his portrayal of Palmer.[8]

On an episode of The Daily Show that aired on June 4, 2008, host Jon Stewart remarked (in a clear reference to David Palmer) that newly christened presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama will be the first African American candidate for President of the United States "since the first season of 24."

Pundits, and indeed Dennis Haysbert himself, have claimed that Haysbert's portrayal of David Palmer allowed viewers to become more comfortable with the idea of an African American president and consequently may have helped the political campaign of Obama,[9] who was elected the 44th President on November 4, 2008. Commentators have called this influence the "Palmer effect", in contrast to the Bradley effect.[10]


  1. ^ Cerasini, Marc (2003). 24: The House Special Subcommittee's Findings at CTU (First ed.). Harper Collins. p. 24. ISBN 0-06-053550-4.
  2. ^ "FOX Broadcasting Company: 24". FOX 24. Archived from the original on 2008-04-02. Retrieved 2008-07-08.
  3. ^ a b c Writer: Robert Cochran & Howard Gordon Director: Jon Cassar (2003-05-20). "7:00 AM - 8:00 AM". 24. Season 2. Episode 48.
  4. ^ Writer: Robert Cochran and Howard Gordon Director: Jon Cassar (2005-05-23). "6:00am-7:00am". 24. Season 4. Episode 96.
  5. ^ "Once Commander-in-Chief, Dennis Haysbert Now a Commando in 'The Unit'". AOL Television. 2006-04-10. Archived from the original on March 1, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
  6. ^ 24's President Haysbert Is Top Fictional Leader
  7. ^ TV.com Elects 24's David Palmer as President of the United States
  8. ^ Dennis Haysbert: Awards
  9. ^ Reynolds, Simon (July 2, 2008). "Haysbert: '24' president helped Obama". Digital Spy Limited. Retrieved 2008-07-08.
  10. ^ Bryant, Nick (November 8, 2008). "Ten quick lessons from the US election". BBC. Retrieved 2008-11-09.