James Stotter

This is part two of a three part series entitled US presidential sex scandals. Part-one, printed Feb. 17, 2013, is titled US presidential sex scandals: Washington through Jackson can be found at http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/14060010-usa-presidential-sex-scandals-washington-through-jackson

Part two, today, covers James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, and Warren Harding.


James_Buchanan, was our only confirmed bachelor president. He was also a self-confessed homosexual. His partner for over 15 years was William_R._King, when both served in Congress. Buchanan’s word for their relationship was a “communion.” After King was appointed Ambassador to France in 1844, Buchanan wrote, “I am now solitary and alone, having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners from me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.” (See Jean H. Baker, James Buchanan: The American Presidents Series: The 15th President, 1857–1861], 2004, page 26 and James Buchanan, James Buchanan Henry, The Works of James Buchanan: Comprising His Speeches, State Papers and Private Correspondence, Volume 6, 1909, page 3)


Abraham_Lincoln‘s law partner William_Herndon wrote what is arguably the best biography of Lincoln, at least from a factual standpoint because few, if any, people knew Lincoln as well . Herndon wrote that a few years before Lincoln married Mary Todd, Lincoln said he had syphilis.

I didn’t find anything about illicit affairs by either spouse. Regardless, Mary Todd was physically abusive towards Lincoln. Mary’s behavior in later years was not inconsistent with tertiary syphilis. (See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1200645/)


In the 1884 presidential campaign, Maria Crofts Halpin claimed Grover_Cleveland fathered her child out of wedlock. In fact, she later admitted she was seeing a few men at the time but the others were all married. This happened as Cleveland was in the midst of his first presidential campaign in 1884. Cleveland’s devised a very clever strategy that has rarely been used before or since and it caught all his political enemies off guard...he told the truth. He openly claimed responsibility and made clear he paid support for the child and to the mother. Still, the Republicans and their candidate, James Blaine, had a field day with a cartoon showing a little boy yelling “Ma Ma Where’s my Pa?” When Cleveland won, he and the Democrats change the cartoon to:

“Ma Ma Where’s my Pa”

“Gone to the White House, ha ha”

(Above link also cites ^ a b c d Nevins, 162–169; Jeffers, 106–111; Graff, 60–65; Welch, 36–39. Also A Secret Life: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland, by Charles Lachman. The boy wound-up going to Harvard Law School and having a successful career.)


Blame the press for scandalizing the 28th US President. Woodrow_Wilson . His first wife, Ellen_Axson_Wilson, died 17 months into Wilson’s first term. She had told her doctor to make sure Wilson knew she said it was okay for him to re-marry. Wilson is often regarded as one of our few truly intellectual presidents. He earned a PhD in history from Johns Hopkins University and had been president of Princeton. So, to many there is something of a disconnect when thinking of Wilson as a romantic, which he most definitely was. Wilson’s cousin, Helen Bones, often served as White House hostess after Ellen died. Bones knew that Wilson was a romantic and enjoyed female company. The following year, she introduced him and the widow Edith Galt to each other. Wilson had also dated other women. So Bones and the whole Washington establishment weren’t the only ones more than a little surprised when the White House announced Wilson & Galt were engaged. In fact, the joke was that the President’s proposal was so unexpected that “When the President proposed, Mrs. Galt was so surprised, she nearly fell out of bed.” (See Edith_Bolling_Galt_Wilson which cites ^ a b Hagood, p. 82-83.)

Later, a typographical error in the Washington Post was more on target than the intended story. The paper published a story describing the president's social evening at a local theater with Mrs. Galt. The article was supposed to include the words "rather than paying attention to the play, the President spent the evening entertaining Mrs. Galt." What was printed in the first run of the Washington Post was "rather than paying attention to the play, the President spent the evening entering Mrs. Galt." Most of the first run of that issue of the paper was successfully recalled. Late in his second term, after Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke, most historians think Mrs. Wilson was the de facto president. (Above link to Edith Galt also cites other sources including Wilson, Edith Bolling Galt. My Memoir. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1939.)


The 34th US President Warren_G._Harding had almost no family life. He was regarded as incredibly handsome. In fact, in one play about Truman, there is a line with Truman mocking Harding’s looks, stating “They say he (Harding) even looked like a president.” Harding married a hometown divorcee’ and spent many evenings “with the boys” playing cards. Florence_Harding, is generally thought to have been a major influence in his newspaper publishing business and his business and political life (see link).

He is known to have had at least two affairs while president, both starting before he became president and both with women from or near his hometown of Marion, Ohio. One was with Carrie_Fulton_Phillips , wife of Harding’s friend James Phillips. The other was with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nan_Britton, who in 1927, published The President’s Daughter, a book about the affairs.(See both links.)

Some reports suggest Harding liked having some of his affairs in the Oval Office cloak room. (See a few sources including http://www.cdapress.com/lifestyles/article_650440a9-6d7e-5030-a578-14e9727c91bd.html.)

Harding was originally thought to have died from Apoplexy. Historians and doctors have subsequently rethought that, but there doesn’t seem to be any definitive conclusion. Some think he died from what today we would call malpractice. There is also a theory that Mrs. Harding poisoned him for all his affairs. She was alone with him when he died. Different sources state she either didn’t request an autopsy or she refused to allow one. (See a few sources including http://millercenter.org/president/harding/essays/biography/7 and http://millercenter.org/president/harding/essays/biography/6 )

NEXT: FD Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LB Johnson, and Clinton