1. James Buchanan
The only bachelor president, James Buchanan was rumored to be homosexual, which in the 19th century earned him much derision. He lived for 15 years with William Rufus King, a senator from Alabama whom Andrew Jackson dubbed “Miss Nancy,” and the pair allegedly were lovers. Aaron V. Brown, who served as U.S. postmaster general while Buchanan was president, reportedly referred to King as Buchanan’s “wife.”
2. George W. Bush
Amidst gossip about his alleged DUI and cocaine use, No. 43 also faced a few sexual allegations. One involved a criminal complaint and rape charge by Margie Denise Schoedinger, a Texas woman who later committed suicide. The second was an accusation by Tammy Phillips, a former stripper, of having an 18-month affair with Bush that ended in 1999.
3. Warren G. Harding
Harding allegedly had a 15-year affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips, the wife of a friend. As president, he carried on a relationship with Nan Britton, a woman 30 years his junior who reportedly lost her virginity to the future president at age 20. Britton reportedly gave birth to Harding’s illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth Ann. When Harding died unexpectedly in 1923, rumor circulated widely at the time that his wife, Florence, poisoned him. Britton published a book about her relationship with the president in 1927.
4. Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson’s relation with Sally Hemings, the mixed-race slave who was his late wife’s half-sister (they had the same father) and with whom he had six children, remains a subject of discussion and disagreement centuries later. Contemporary wealthy Virginia widowers often took enslaved women as concubines, so for Jefferson to also do so would not have been unusual for the time.
5. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower had an affair with his driver, Kay Summersby, who wrote about the relationship in a book published six years after Ike’s death. Although some scholars have disputed the affair, President Harry Truman reportedly told author Merle Miller that in 1945, Eisenhower asked permission from General George Marshall to divorce his wife to marry Summersby. Eisenhower biographer Jean Edward Smith writes, “Whether he and Kay were intimate remains a matter of conjecture. But there is no question they were in love.”
6. Franklin D. Roosevelt
FDR had a lifelong affair with Lucy Mercer, who was Eleanor Roosevelt’s “social secretary.” The romance between Mercer and Franklin likely began in 1916, when Eleanor and the children were vacationing to avoid the summer heat, while Franklin remained in Washington, D.C. Eleanor discovered a packet of love letters from Mercer in his suitcase in 1918 and subsequently offered her husband a divorce, but the couple remained married, though the first lady focused increasingly on social work and nurturing her own career for the remainder of FDR’s presidency.
7. John F. Kennedy
JFK’s list of rumored affairs is rampant, including alleged flings with Angie Dickinson, Marlene Dietrich, and Jackie’s press secretary Pamela Turnure, though none are as well-known as the president’s rumored tryst with Marilyn Monroe, with whom JFK purportedly spent a weekend at Bing Crosby’s house in 1962. The White House switchboard also noted calls from her during 1962. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover received regular reports as to Kennedy’s indiscretions. Doctors speculated that the drugs the president required for his Addison’s disease had the side effect of increasing his virility.
According to John F. Kennedy himself, Kennedy father Joe told his sons to get “laid as often as possible.”
8. Grover Cleveland
During the 1884 presidential campaign, the Buffalo Evening Telegraph published a juicy story about Cleveland’s alleged affair with salesclerk Maria Halpin, whom he allegedly “date raped.” Halpin later discovered she was pregnant. Rumor has it that Cleveland then had her child put in an orphanage and forced her to be treated at a mental asylum, although historians have questioned that detail. Cleveland did admit to paying child support for her son.
10. Lyndon B. Johnson
LBJ reportedly had many affairs, including a 21-year relationship with Madeleine Brown. Brown became pregnant in 1950, prior to Johnson being in the White House, and gave birth to a son, Steven. Johnson purportedly set her up in an apartment for their trysts and gave her financial help. Several scholars have refuted these charges.
According to biographer Robert Dallek: “When people mentioned Kennedy’s many affairs, Johnson would bang the table and declare that he had more women by accident than Kennedy ever had on purpose.”
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