Scandals and politics are familiar bedfellows - particularly in the Oval Ofiice.
Donald Trump isn’t the only sitting US president to face impeachment, criminal charges, or the ignominy of ‘bimbo eruptions’. In fact, we’ve been here many times before.
Like many presidents before him, Trump has (so far) managed to weather the storm and survive scandal after scandal. SPYSCAPE traces America’s 250-year history of dangerous liaisons.
President George Washington (1789-1797)
The backbiting and black ops were underway even before George Washington’s presidency. Thomas Conway and Horatio Gates were behind the Conway Cabal movement, an attempt to remove Washington from his military command. Meanwhile, Silas Deane was assigned to ‘visit’ France, essentially operating as a secret agent arranging arms for the Continental Army. Once appointed Ambassador to France, Deane was accused of treason and died under mysterious circumstances. Washington wasn’t so squeaky clean either. He was accused of fathering a son before his presidency with Venus, a slave on his family's Virginia estate.
Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)
While in his first term in office, Thomas Jefferson was accused of fathering more than one child with a slave named Sally Hemings. John Adams may have even gossiped about the relationship years before it was exposed. A 1998 DNA test linked two of Hemings descendants to Jefferson, whose wife died while he was vice president. Hemings would have been about 14 years old at the time. She died in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1835.
William Henry Harrison (March 4, 1841 - April 4, 1841)
It’s the shortest presidency in US history but William Henry Harrison’s 32 days were memorable. The military officer had six children with one of his slaves, an African-American named Dilsia, according to his biographer Professor Kenneth R. Janken. Dilsia apparently gave four of the children to a brother before Harrison ran for president to avoid a scandal. Harrison is remembered for his quote: “There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.” He went to bed at the end of his inauguration day with a bad cold that developed into a fatal case of pneumonia.
President Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897)
The Halpin Scandal - known as ‘the most despicable sex scandal in American political history’ - involved Grover Cleveland and a notorious sex scandal. Cleveland fathered a child with a widow, Maria Halpin, who claimed the baby was conceived ‘by use of force and violence and without [her] consent.’ Cleveland had the boy placed in an orphanage while Maria was thrown into an asylum. A Democratic smear campaign portrayed her as a drunken whore. The spin worked and Cleveland won the close-fought election on a platform of anti-corruption.
Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
The Teapot Dome bribery scandal involved Warren G. Harding, sometimes called the worst US president in history (but there’s still time). The scandal didn’t revolve around sex. Instead, it involved the other great motivator of men: money. Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, Albert Bacon Fall, leased Navy petroleum reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming and in California to private oil companies at low rates without competitive bids. Fall was convicted of accepting $400,000 in bribes and became the first presidential Cabinet member in history to be imprisoned. Harding supporters claim the president wasn’t aware of the scam but his reputation was tarnished and the stress was overwhelming. He died while in office in 1923.