Tue Nov 29, 2011 02:48 PM ET
American politics has long been rocked with scandal, but none are more potent than the presidential sex scandal.
Since the dawn of the United States, there have been rumors and conjecture about everyone from President Thomas Jefferson to presidential candidates like Herman Cain or John Edwards. The campaign for the office of the president is a difficult road, even more so with media scrutiny, but when the public discover a sexual mishap, those involved feel the fallout.
Presidential candidates' sexual indiscretions, once known, are widely publicized, and often politicized, but how many have there been? Suffice it to say a lot. Here are five presidential, or presidential candidate, sex scandals that we at Discovery News find most interesting.
#5 Presidential Candidate Wilbur Mills
Representative Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.) was a powerful Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for 18 years (1957-1975). His position made him very a powerful figure in the U.S. House of Representatives, which made him well known in the District of Columbia.
In 1974, a car was pulled over by U.S. Park Police driving without headlights on at 2 AM. When the police came to the vehicle they discovered Mills severely intoxicated and transporting Annabelle Battistella, a stripper from Argentina whose stage name was Fanne Foxe. As police approached, Battistella lept from the car and into the Tidal Basin to escape. Mills stepped down from his post a year later to treat his admitted alcoholism.
#4 Presidential Candidate Gary Hart
Senator Hart (D-Colo.) was a major candidate for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. A few weeks after he announced his candidacy, Hart challenged the mass media to put a tail on him. He asserted in a New York Times interview that whoever got the job would find it "boring."
The day that interview ran in the Times, the Miami Herald published that model Donna Rice had left Hart's Washington, D.C. townhome the night before. Two days later the Herald received a tip that Hart had spent the night on a yacht with a woman who was not his wife. A few days after that, a photo surfaced with Rice sitting on Hart's lap while he wore a shirt bearing the yacht's name; ironically called "Monkey Business."
He dropped out of the race a week after the story broke, not even a month after his official announcement.
#3 Presidential Candidate Strom Thurmond
Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) is one of the United States' longest-serving members of Congress, serving until he was 100. He ran for president in 1948 as the candidate from the States Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrat).
After his death in 2003, it was revealed that the one-time South Carolina segregationist fathered a daughter out of wedlock with an African-American maid who worked in his family home. Carrie Butler, the 16-year-old maid, birthed a daughter, named Essie Mae Washington-Williams. Thurmond paid for his daughter to go to college and allegedly supported her with money occasionally. But he never formally admitted parentage. The Thurmond family acknowledged her when Washington-Williams admitted the bloodline in 2003. She was 78 years old.
#2 President Thomas Jefferson
President Thomas Jefferson was a writer of the Declaration of Independence, our country's third president and one of the great minds of our early democracy. Jefferson lived in his home, Monticello, southwest of Washington, D.C. owning slaves to maintain his house and estate. With one of those, Sally Hemings, historians believe he fathered multiple children, the first when she was only 17.
When the scandal broke, Jefferson had only been in office for a year and he remained silent on the issue. Jefferson's will decreed that Sally was allowed to live with her children, though she was not officially freed. He may have fathered as many as six children throughout their relationship.
#1 President Bill Clinton
President Bill Clinton is attributed to one of the largest sex scandals to hit the White House in modern times. In 1998, Clinton was struck with various sexual misconduct allegations, including sexual relationships with Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones. In the deposition for the Jones case, he denied having sexual relations with White House intern Lewinsky. This denial became the basis for an impeachment charge of perjury.
His sexual infidelity was not the focus of the impeachment, but as it was central to the case a special prosecutor was called in, and during questioning Clinton famously remarked, "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is," with regard to whether he had ever had relations with Lewinsky or if he was at the time of the questioning.
Ultimately, President Clinton was impeached, but not removed from office.
President Grover Cleveland fathered an illegitimate child before running for president in the late 19th century. A bachelor at the time, he married while in office. He met his future wife at the age of 27, when his friend Oscar Folsom had a daughter, Frances. Cleveland doted on her, buying her first baby carriage. When her father died in 1875 when she was 11, Cleveland took care of her, sent her to college and married her in the Blue Room of the White House when she was 21. He would go on to be the only president elected for two non-consecutive terms, serving as the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.
Presidential Candidate Herman Cain was accused by two women of inappropriate sexual behavior. Cain issued a denial stating: "I have never sexually harassed anyone and those accusations are totally false." A little more than a month later Cain would have five women accusing him of impropriety. At least two were paid a settlement. It's still unclear as of this posting whether this will affect his bid for the presidency.
Presidential candidate John Edwards fathered an illegitimate child with a filmmaker hired to work for his presidential campaign. While at first he denied he was the father, it later came out while his wife was suffering from breast cancer. His presidential candidacy did not survive the blow.