Top 10 Scandals in History that Rocked 9 U.S. Presidencies
Have you ever thanked the High Heavens for making you an ordinary mortal, almost anonymous, away from a gossiping public and the prying eyes of newspapers and tabloids out to grab good ratings?
I bet you haven’t. You should, because these famous people certainly wished they were when they were embroiled in scandals that gripped, not only the nation, but the entire world, as well.
They made earth-shattering impacts because they're presidents of the U.S. They were:
1. Thomas Jefferson – 3rd U.S. President (1801- 1809)
Thomas Jefferson was one of the Founding Fathers and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776). Thomas Jefferson’s alleged relationship, 1802, with a slave girl, Sally Hemmings, of which they had a child. He denied the charges and remained in office for another 7 years.
This debate raged on until 1998 when DNA testing became available. Tests showed that Jefferson was likely to have fathered at least one of Sally Hemming’s children.
2. Andrew Jackson – 7th U.S. President (1829 - 1837)
A famous general from the West, he was nicknamed “Old Hickory,” for being the most influential and controversial political figure in the 1820s and 1830s. The story started with the marriage of Jackson’s Secretary of War, John Henry Eaton, to recently widowed Margaret Timberlake, whose husband committed suicide.
It became a scandal when talks surfaced that both parties had already an illicit relationship which precipitated Mr. Timberlake’s suicide. Most of Jackson’s cabinet turned against Eaton, but Jackson supported him. This resulted to the resignation of almost all of Jackson’s cabinet.
3. Ulysses Grant – 18th U.S. President (1869 – 1877)
Ulysses Grant was the Commanding General of the Union Army during the Civil War, and, working closely with Abraham Lincoln, defeated the Confederacy that threatened to break the union. His presidency was also considered to be one of the most corrupt because of these two major scandals:
Credit Mobilier Scandal:
The Credit Mobilier, in 1868, was found to be stealing from the Union Pacific Railroad. To cover it up, it sold stocks of their company, at huge discounts, to government officials and Congress members, including the Vice President, Schuyler Colfax. When this was made public by the New York newspaper, The Sun, it hurt many reputations, foremost of which, was Grant’s VP.
The Whiskey Ring
This involved bribery and tax evasion among many high ranking members of his cabinet. In1875, it was revealed that many government employees were pocketing whiskey taxes. President Grant moved for the swift punishment of those involved but made exceptions with h is personal secretary who was implicated in the affair.
4. Grover Cleveland – 22nd and 24th President of the U.S. ( Mar. 4, 1885 and Mar 4. 1889)
Grover was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms
Born Stephen Grover Cleveland, during his first electoral campaign in 1884, word leaked out that he had an affair with Maria C. Helpin, a widow, of which they had a son. She claimed that Grover was the father and named her son, Oscar Folsom Cleveland.
Cleveland admitted it and gave child support. Later, when she was no longer capable to raise the child, he put him up in an orphanage. His honesty and candor worked in his favor. He got elected, not only once, but twice.
5. Warren G. Harding – 29th U.S. President (1921 – 1923)
Warren G. Harding
Though considered as one of the most popular presidents in history, he had his share of scandals, foremost of which, was called the Teapot Dome scandal. What happened was that President Harding in 1921, transferred control of naval oil reserve lands to the Department of the Interior (this was reversed by the Supreme Court who ruled that it was illegal).
Then Secretary of the Interior, Albert B. Fall, gave rights to the Mammoth Oil Company over the Teapot Dome Reserve in Wyoming in exchange for some bribes. When the scandal broke out in 1924, Secretary Fall was said to have pocketed $100,000 in bribe money. Although President Harding was dead by then, it hounded his presidency for a long time.
In fact, before the Watergate scandal, Teapot Dome was regarded as the “greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics”.
6. John F. Kennedy – 35th President of the U.S. (1961 – 1963)
John F. Kennedy
The Americans love JFK, as he was more popularly called. And he loved them back – especially the women. One among many, and the most controversial, was Marilyn Monroe – the epitome of a beautiful blond.
Though enjoying success in her career as an actress, she was not so lucky in relationships, most notable among them was with President Kennedy and, according to rumors, with his brother as well, Robert or “Bobby” Kennedy. According to the rumor mill, Monroe was becoming agitated over the affair that it became increasingly public, making her a potential embarrassment, especially when she threatened to go public.
It did not happen, however, because she died under mysterious circumstances. The coroner’s office said she committed suicide. Others say she was silenced to stop her from spilling the beans on the Kennedys.
7. Richard Nixon – 37th U.S. President (1969 – 1974)
Richard M. Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the only U.S. president to resign from office over a scandal deemed to be the worst in American History.
What started as a simple case of burglary, turned out to be a politically motivated break-in into the Democratic Committee Headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. It became a class one scandal because of the Nixon administration’s idiotic bungling in covering up its involvement.
It resulted to Nixon’s resignation on Aug. 9, 1974, and the indictment, conviction and imprisonment of 43 people, including dozens of Nixon’s top officials.
8. Ronald Reagan – 40th U.S. President (1981 – 1989)
Ronald W. Reagan
When talking about double-dealing and sleight of hand, Ronald Reagan’s presidency was tops. And it created one of the biggest political scandal in the U.S. It came to light in 1986 when senior administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of firearms to Iran, which was under arms embargo. The supposition was that by playing coy to Iran, the country might be willing to release some hostages. This did not happen.
To make it more complicated, the money from the sale was funneled to the Contras, a revolutionary group in Nicaragua who was fighting to oust Noriega. Pres. Reagan was lucky because the buck stopped at Col. Oliver North’s desk. But he still got mud all over for command responsibility.
9. Bill Clinton – 42nd U.S. President (1993 – 2001)
Born William Jefferson Clinton, he was more popularly called “Bill” Clinton. He is of the same stuff JFK was made of – good looking, very popular and couldn’t stop chasing skirts. Bill’s scandal involved his alleged affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. It became so sensationalized to the point of absurdity because it happened when instant messaging and the Internet made news dissemination easy and fast.
Despite Congressional investigations and an impeachment proceeding, Bill Clinton left office with the record of having the highest end-of-office approval rating of any U.S. President since WW II.
Do you know of any more scandals involving U.S. President’s? Share it with us. For what it’s worth, it will make all of us glad that they, after all, are humans like us, capable of committing stupid mistakes and shameful, if not disastrous decisions.
The difference is that we can do it with much impunity and wild abandon, while they can’t.