Presidents are no strangers to womanizing, cheating or secret affairs. You’re probably familiar with the legendary dalliances of President Kennedy and the scandal that rocked President Clinton’s White House. History shows us that outrageous behavior is nothing new in our nation’s capital. Read on for seven of history’s most scandalous affairs involving U.S. presidents.
1. Thomas Jefferson
Rumors of an affair with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, began during Jefferson’s first term as president. He is speculated to have fathered at least six children with Hemings, who remained a slave in his home until his death in 1826. Jefferson’s family members denied reports of an affair, but in 1998, DNA tests conducted by geneticist Dr. Eugene Foster found conclusive evidence that Eston Hemings, Sally’s youngest son, was fathered by Jefferson.
2. James Garfield
Garfield’s philandering began even before his marriage did; he started a four-year affair with a friend while engaged to his fiancée Lucretia Rudolph. While serving his first term in Congress, Garfield had a brief affair with Lucia Gilbert Calhoun, a 20-year-old reporter for the New York Tribune and a long-term affair with Alameda Booth. When Lucretia learned of the affairs, he confessed everything but failed to change his ways. During the 1880 presidential election, he was dogged by allegations that he routinely visited a New Orleans prostitute.
3. James Buchanan
While this relationship wasn’t adulterous, it was certainly scandalous for the times. James Buchanan shared a home with fellow politician William Rufus King for 13 years until King died from tuberculosis in 1853. King briefly served as vice president under President Franklin Pierce before his death; he holds the record for shortest-serving vice president with only 45 days in office. Buchanan became president four years later in 1857.
Buchanan and King’s close relationship did not go unnoticed in Washington, where the pair were referred to as “Buchanan and his wife.” After King moved to Paris to serve as the American ambassador to France, Buchanan wrote to a confidante, “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 one of them.” As Buchanan requested that all of his correspondence be destroyed after his death, it seems we’ll never know for sure. Notably, Buchanan is the only U.S. president to never marry.