There is always the hope that when we elect someone to the role of President of the United States, they will act in an honorable and honest manner. They should be able to run the country for the good of the nation, act as a role model, and keep their nose out of trouble. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
The White House has seen a fair few scandals over the years. While many of them take the form of political scandals – based on corruption, dodgy deals, and questionable use of public money – there are exceptions.
What Non-Political Scandals Were There In The White House?
However, there are plenty of other times when the Commander in Chief got caught doing something he shouldn’t. A lot of these scandals involve sex, mistresses, and illegitimate children. But, there are other criminal offenses out there too.
Not Just The President Involved!
Of course, it isn’t just the president himself that gets the honor of doing business in the White House. The first lady also has a reputation to uphold and this is under constant scrutiny. Then there are the vice presidents that may think they can get away with murder in the shadows – perhaps literally.
Sex Scandals By Presidents In The White House.
Sex scandals involving US Presidents don’t tend to go away easily. They are devoured by the public who pick them apart to learn all the sordid details and disgrace those involved. On one side of the controversy, we have a family man committing adultery or worse. On the other, there is the sense that these men have the same flaws as so many others.
There have been plenty of affairs in and outside the White House, numerous illegitimate children, and even claims of rape.
The most infamous presidential sex scandal is that of Bill Clinton. This is because instead of having an affair away from the White House and keeping things low-key, he had sexual encounters in the Oval Office. The scandalous nature of the acts themselves is open to debate compared to other scandals. Other presidents carried out much longer extra-marital affairs or alleged non-consensual acts.
The problem for Clinton was that in denying the affair during a deposition for a sexual harassment case, he was then impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. Although acquitted of the crimes, the scandal stuck with him.
Donald Trump‘s list of scandals and controversies is pretty long and continues to gain press attention. There was an accusation that he deliberately tried to infect Joe Biden with Covid during a debate. But, with Covid, impeachment, and other political scandals to one side, there were also sex scandals.
Trump’s attitude towards women was well-publicized when audio leaked that advocated sexual assault. Then there was the case involving adult film star Stormy Daniels. Daniels claimed that the pair had been in an affair around the time of Trump’s marriage to Melania and the birth of Barron.
Trump is accused of paying her off to stay quiet. On top of this, there are rape accusations, including that of E. Jean Carrol.
As beloved as FDR was, he was still a flawed man. This includes his attitudes towards women and affairs. The most well-known relationship is that between Franklin and Lucy Mercer.
Mercer was Eleanor Roosevelt’s 22-year-old social secretary and Eleanor discovered love letters between the two. The affair continued, despite threats of divorce, and Mercer was with Franklin at his death bed.
Mercer was the last of Franklin’s affairs, and potentially a true love as the relationship with Eleanor soured. But, she was far from the first. He had embarked on a long affair with Missy LeHand while he was governor and there is also a rumor involving Princess Martha of Sweden.
The Thomas Jefferson scandal is the one that stayed relevant for the longest time. There had long been questions over the nature of the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Hemings was one of Jefferson’s slaves and it was speculated that many, if not all, of her six children, were fathered by Jefferson.
At the time, it was dismissed as slander used for political means. However, DNA tests carried out on descendants in 1998 showed that Jefferson was likely to have been the father of one of the Heming’s sons at least. The relationship would have been secret but not that out of the ordinary for the time.
Finally, for the presidential sex scandals in the White House, we have the disturbing story of Grover Cleveland. This is a scandal that has different interpretations. The basic story here is that a woman called Maria Halpin accused Cleveland of being the father of her child. The child was later put up for adoption.
Some reports are quite tame, merely stating it was an illegitimate child that Cleveland insisted was put up for adoption to end the scandal. There is also the fact that Cleveland’s later admittance to the “affair” helped with public opinion. However, there are also reports that the pregnancy was the result of rape.
Scandals Committed By First Ladies In The White House.
The tone of some of the scandals attributed to first ladies in the White House is often very different. Critics of the president’s administration will often question the character and influence of these women – both politically and personally. But, there are times when attacks go further than those questioning Betty Ford’s liberalism or Nancy Regan’s love of astrology.
We need to start with Melania Trump as she is the most recent first lady to complete a full term and one of the most interesting figures. Many will point towards the fur coat worn at the immigration center as her biggest political scandal. But, she was also under constant scrutiny for both her actions and inaction while in the White House.
It is easy to look at what Melania did as a first lady, such as the infamous uproar over her influence on the look of the building and its grounds. But, there are also those times where she was not present. She decided not to bring her son to the White House straight away and there are still questions of the “fake Melania” body doubles in photo opportunities.
The scandal involving Laura Bush did not take place within the White House, but it certainly affected her husband’s time there. It was revealed during the presidential race of 2000 that Laura has been in a fatal car accident in high school.
The situation worsened due to the handling of the story. The subject was avoided, the press was barred from questioning her for the full two-term presidency, and the police records were blocked. It was later revealed that she had indeed caused the death of another student after missing a stop sign.
Eleanor Roosevelt may have been cheated on by Franklin, but she was a strong woman that easily stood up for herself in this situation. Her power, strength, and intelligence were often intimidating to others, which can explain some of the negative attention received.
Often, the negative press was political, with many questioning her influence on the president and his decision-making. But, there was also a sex scandal of her own. Eleanor had a very close relationship with a journalist called Lorena Hickok. This led to speculation over the nature of the relationship and their trips away together. There has been no confirmation on whether Eleanor was bisexual or if an affair did take place.
Mary Todd Lincoln.
The controversy of Mary Todd Lincoln is more of an ongoing expenses scandal than any one-time shocking event. There are perceived perks to being a first lady where wives should be able to enjoy some of the finer things in life. Yet, the public doesn’t like extravagance and obvious class divisions.
Mary was deemed to have spent far too much on her wardrobe and on decorating the White House. Her poor reputation with the public worsened when she was criticized for the way she openly mourned her husband.
Then there is Julia Tyler. The whole story of John and Julia Tyler is an interesting one. Julia was President Tyler‘s second wife and 30 years his junior. They had courted for a while but were brought closer by the tragic explosion on the Princeton that killed her father.
Julia was already a controversial figure in her social circle. The scandal was tame by today’s standards. She had posed with a man as a teenager for an advertisement for a middle-class departments store. The ad called her “The Rose of Long Island” and brought so much negative attention to the family that she was sent away.
Scandals Committed By Vice Presidents In The White House.
Finally, there are the vice presidents that didn’t uphold the honor of the office. Some resented their role and took advantage of it while others attempted to hide their antics in the shadow of the president. It didn’t always work out and some left the position in disgrace.
The name Aaron Burr may not be that well known these days, but he was actually one of the more controversial vice presidents to ever take office. For a start, he was charged with murder. He had taken part in a duel in 1804 that led to the death of Alexander Hamilton. The indictment ended his career and saw him flee to the South.
If that wasn’t enough, he was charged with treason 3 years later for allegedly being part of a plot to attack the Spanish colony of Mexico.
Richard M. Johnson
The career of Johnson is an interesting one full of controversies and tales. He was a respected member of the US Army for his role at the 1813 Battle of Thames. But, it went sour from there. One of his biggest “crimes” at the time was the decision to take a slave as a common-law wife. This was scandalous in a world where such relationships were usually kept behind closed doors.
It is said that Van Buren hated working with him so much that this is why he stood for re-election without a running mate.
John Cabell Breckinridge
Burr wasn’t the only vice president to have the word treason on his list of charges. Breckinridge, the youngest-ever vice president at 36, had a spectacular fall from grace following his time in the White House. He had been well respected enough to see him run for president against Lincoln. But, when this failed, he went back to Kentucky and joined the Confederate Army.
As Kentucky was not part of the Confederacy, he was charged with treason. He then fled, moving from Florida to Cuba, to Europe to escape his fate.
The actions of Thomas Marshall aren’t so much scandalous as baffling to anyone that values the position of vice president. If a modern-day vice president were to speak in the manner of Marshall, especially with today’s social media, they would not get away with it. During his inaugural speech, he promised to “acknowledge the insignificant influence of the office”. His attitude didn’t improve over time.
The List Of Non-Political Scandals In The White House Is Sure To Grow
Donald Trump will go down as one of the most controversial presidents ever because of the attempted impeachment, sex scandals, and a lot more. But, he won’t be the last.
There will always be presidents that attempt to have affairs or abuse their position in some way.
There will always be criticism of first ladies for daring to do their own thing or saying the wrong thing.
The press and public will seek them out because, deep down, they hope to find some flaws and gossip.