President’s Day is a day for celebrating our country’s past and present leaders. From the first to the 46th, the United States has seen a wide range of leadership. Some elevated their office to a higher, more dignified position, while others… did not do that.
Since George Washington’s first term in 1789, there has been a long list of presidential scandals. We’ve heard about some of the juiciest already: Clinton and Lewinsky, Watergate, the JFK and Marilyn rumors.
But several other salacious stories have flown under the radar over the last 233 years. And as it turns out, possibly fooling around with a blonde bombshell was not the worst of JFK’s offenses.
5. LBJ Made Lady Bird Put Up With A Lot
While LBJ made great strides in the Civil Rights movement, he was far less civil at home. The Texan president had a notoriously lewd demeanor, groping women in front of dinner guests and bragging about how well-endowed he was.
According to the Miller Center, he even called the Hagger clothing company to request they give his pants a larger crotch area for this reason. “They’re just like riding a wire fence. They cut me under there. See if you can’t leave me about an inch from where the zipper (belches) ends around under my—back to my bunghole.” Ah, yes—the words of the leader of the Free World.
As for his groundbreaking wife, Lady Bird? He was less than civil to her, too. LBJ demanded his wife look a certain way. If she walked into a room without lipstick, he would yell, “put your lipstick on. You don’t sell for what you’re worth,” according to Texas Monthly. How pleasant!
4. Taylor Was Exhumed In A Homicide Investigation
Zachary Taylor held the shortest presidential term in the country’s history. He died in office in 1850 after serving only two years. 141 years later, a Kentucky coroner exhumed Taylor’s body to investigate a possible homicide. The new theory was that Taylor died of arsenic poisoning.
Taylor fought against expanding slavery into the western territories, though he owned more than 100 slaves himself. Still, this opposition was the theoretical driving force behind his possible assassination.
However, the coroner found no evidence of poisoning during his 1991 examination. Taylor died of regular old gastroenteritis caused by overeating cherries and milk at a Fourth of July party. And honestly, it would be more surprising not to get gastroenteritis after binging milk and produce on a hot day in 1850.
3. Harding Wrote The O.G. ’50 Shades’
Warren G. Harding was the sitting president during the Teapot Dome Scandal, though he was never personally implicated in the wrongdoing. Of course, maybe that’s because he was too busy writing steamy love letters to his mistresses.
Harding’s longtime affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips began somewhere around 1910. The president wrote many of his dirtiest notes on official Senate stationery. Indeed, the letters were so obscene that his family demanded the letters stay sealed for 50 years after his death.
One such letter was later published in the New York Times and included phrases like, “I love your poise of perfect thighs when they hold me in paradise. I love the rose your garden grows, love seashell pink that over it glows. I love to suck your breath away, I love to cling—there long to stay.” Anthony Weiner’s sexts could never!
2. Cleveland Groomed His Bride And Banished His Baby Mama
Grover Cleveland had his fair share of shocking stories, but his most salacious ones centered around his love life. He married Frances Folsom, a woman 27 years his junior. In fact, Cleveland gifted her father—his legal partner—a baby buggy for her birth. Not creepy at all!
Perhaps even worse was his treatment of Maria Halpen, a woman with whom he had an illegitimate child. He gave the baby up for adoption immediately after its birth. Then, he had Halpen committed to an insane asylum.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, after the rumors leaked, political opponents started taunting Cleveland with the chant, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?” Wildly, it didn’t affect Cleveland’s political standing. When he won the presidential election, his supporters added a second line to the chant: “Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!”
1. JFK Was High At His Summit With Khrushchev
JFK suffered from lifelong medical problems, according to the Very Presidential podcast. While in office, he took steroids, barbiturates, narcotics, and other drugs to ease his symptoms. His favorite, however, was a creation by Dr. Max Jacobson, or Dr. Feelgood. The miracle elixir in question? Amphetamines.
The president had suffered a back injury before an important summit with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. He brought Dr. Feelgood along and received a shot before meeting Khrushchev. His bounding energy quickly depleted, and he ended up fumbling the entire summit.
JFK was crashing hard when Khrushchev said, “It is up to the US to decide whether there will be war or peace.” JFK replied, “Mister Chairman, there will be war. It will be a cold winter.” This was the exact opposite of what the US was trying to accomplish. JFK would later say that Khrushchev “savaged him.” (The meth shots certainly didn’t help, either.)