Every Time A Sitting U.S. President Has Ever Hidden Their Illness From The Public

By | October 6, 2020

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(N. Currier/Wikimedia Commons)

No matter the era, the well-being of the U.S. president has global ramifications. If the commander-in-chief knows the state of their health has a direct effect on the state of the nation, is it okay to hide an illness from the public? That's a question at the forefront of today's political minds as speculation on the health of President Donald Trump grows exponentially following his diagnosis of COVID-19, but Trump wouldn't be the first president to put up a front of strength and vigor. In fact, many presidents hid their illnesses.

William Henry Harrison Might Have Had Typhoid Fever

With a presidential career spanning only 32 days, William Henry Harrison has an unfortunate political history. He had both the shortest term as president in the history of the United States and the longest inaugural address to date, and the latter directly contributed to the former. After droning on for almost two hours on a cold day without a coat or hat, he fell ill within the month and died of complications from pneumonia on April 5, 1841, but some historians believe that Harrison had also been suffering from typhoid fever since before he even took office, thanks to Washington, D.C.'s contaminated water supply. If that's really the case, then catching pneumonia only exacerbated his illness.

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(Frederick Gutekunst/Wikimedia Commons)

Grover Cleveland's Cancer-Hiding Mustache

Mustaches are great for a lot of reasons, but for Grover Cleveland, it was the perfect disguise for a surgery scar on his upper lip. Mere months after he was elected to his second term in 1893, Cleveland was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on the roof of his mouth. He had it removed aboard a yacht on the pretense of a four-day fishing trip, covered the scar with his mustache, and denied all rumors of surgery. He even went so far as to launch a smear campaign against the doctor who brought the news to the press.