Missing the Juicy Sex Scandals?

The Obama administration has had its share of scandals including the Veteran’s Health Administration mess and the IRS and Secret Service misdeeds to name a few. But these were all rather boring. Not in the same league as Clinton’s “zippergate.” We all love a good sex scandal but we haven’t had a good one in Washington since General Petraeus’ affair with journalist Paula Broadwell back in 2012. (The Denny Hastert wrongdoing doesn’t count as it happened a long time ago and is just gross.) The Obama administration has been a big disappointment in that department. I, for one, miss the titillating sex scandals of the past.

Throughout U.S. history powerful men have tended to sleep around, including many of our presidents. However, in fairness, most of our leaders have been faithful husbands. It is quite touching to read about how devoted certain presidents such as Grant, McKinley and Truman were to their wives. But reading about some of the others will make you blush. Kennedy’s and Clinton’s dalliances are well known but you may not be aware of some of the others. Here is a short description of some of my favorite presidential affairs.


We hope they change the bedsheets often.

Our 20th head of state, James Garfield, had an extramarital affair. Most Americans have never heard of this largely because most Americans have never heard of James Garfield. That is understandable as he died six months after he took office. James and Lucretia Garfield were married in 1858. But the marriage was not particularly happy and they both wondered if their union had been a mistake. Then in 1864 Garfield fell in love with Lucia Gilbert Calhoun. But James, racked with guilt, told his wife about the fling (this is usually not a good idea). His wife was crushed but she forgave him and oddly enough they then fell deeply in love and lived happily ever after ….that is until he was assassinated.

Grover Cleveland, our 22nd and 24th president, was involved in a sex scandal, although it was before he was married. In 1874 a widow named Maria Halpin gave birth to a son and alleged that Cleveland was the daddy. Maria had a number of lovers at the time including Cleveland’s law partner, Oscar Folsom. Grover didn’t know if he was indeed the father and I guess Ms. Halpin wasn’t sure either as she named the boy Oscar Folsom Cleveland. She appears to have narrowed it down to two candidates. Back then it wasn’t possible to determine paternity as there was no nineteenth-century equivalent to Maury Povich. But Cleveland took responsibility in large part because Maria’s other partners were all married. He was the kind of friend you would like to have. His political opponents tried to make an issue out of this in his first presidential campaign but the scandal faded when Cleveland owned up to it.


This practice continues today, even in pop culture.

Our 29th president, Warren Gamaliel Harding, was our most disgraceful Commander in Chief. His first extramarital romp began in 1905 while his spouse was recovering from surgery. His paramour was Carrie Phillips the wife of a close friend. He was NOT the kind of friend that you would like to have. Their affair ended in 1920 when Senator Harding became the Republican presidential nominee. Fearing that Carrie would go public with their adultery, the Harding campaign paid her off and sent her and her husband on an all-expense-paid trip to the Far East just before the election.

In 1916, before that illicit affair ended, the 51 year old future president started an adulterous affair with Nan Britton, a twenty year old girl who was the daughter of one of Warren’s friends. He was REALLY not the kind of friend you would like to have. Nan had become infatuated with Harding while still a teenager.

Three years later Miss Britton gave birth to a daughter and asserted that Warren was the father. Harding accepted responsibility and began to secretly pay child support. Their affair continued even after he became president. Harding would take her to a coat closet off of his private office for “sexual relations” while the secret service stood guard. There is no record of any cigars being used. Harding died while in office and there was speculation that his wife poisoned him to shield him from the breaking Teapot Dome scandal or because of his unfaithfulness or because she just hated him.


She was a though lady.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), and Eleanor Roosevelt (distant cousins) were married in 1905. But in 1916 FDR fell madly in love with Lucy Mercer. Lucy was his wife’s social secretary and was younger and much prettier than Eleanor. Unfortunately for FDR and Lucy, Mrs. Roosevelt discovered some love letters that her secretary had written to Franklin. Needless to say she was not happy and she offered her husband a divorce. FDR did not take her up on the offer because it would have destroyed his political ambitions ….and his mother wouldn’t let him. She threatened to disown him which meant that he would miss out on his share of the family fortune. Eleanor agreed that they would stay together provided that 1.) Franklin stayed out of Lucy’s bed and 2.) Franklin stayed out of Eleanor’s bed. FDR kept the second part of the agreement.

Although Mrs. Roosevelt was terribly hurt by her husband’s affair she gained strength from it, developed more of an interest in public affairs (no pun intended) and went on to become one of the most influential first ladies in American history. And since Franklin had fallen in love with another woman it was only fitting that Eleanor should too. She allegedly fell in love with a female journalist named Lorena Hickok.


She knew more about pleasing a first lady than the president

Our nation has had a rich history of sexual scandals which makes it all the more disappointing that our current leadership has been so straitlaced. Hopefully the next administration’s misdeeds will be more interesting. The next administration will no doubt have its share of scandals (especially if a Republican is elected in 2016) but as I look over the large field of candidates I’m afraid we might be in for more of the humdrum variety.

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There is a chance, tho.

John Wade, a frequent contributor to Unhinged Magazine, is a retired Chief Financial Officer who lives in Wildwood, Missouri.

©2015, all rights reserved, published with the permission of the author.

If you want to read more from guest writer John Wade, check out his article about inappropriate fairy tales.

published with the permission of the author