Pres­i­dent Hard­ing faced sex scan­dals dur­ing 1920s

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Ron­ald G. Shafer

WASH­ING­TON — The Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date’s af­fair could be ex­posed be­fore the elec­tion, so the other woman’s si­lence was bought. An­other woman wrote a tell-all book about her love life with the same mar­ried man.

Long be­fore Don­ald Trump and Stormy Daniels, there was Pres­i­dent War­ren Hard­ing, whose sex­ual dal­liances made his­tory.

In 1920, the Repub­li­cans nom­i­nated Hard­ing, a se­na­tor from Ohio, to run against Demo­cratic Gov. James Cox, also of Ohio, and his run­ning mate Franklin D. Roo­sevelt.

Only then did GOP lead­ers learn their stan­dard­bearer had some kinky skele­tons in his closet. One was a long-run­ning af­fair with Car­rie Ful­ton Phillips, the wife of the head of a depart­ment store in Mar­ion, Ohio, where Hard­ing was a news­pa­per pub­lisher.

The af­fair had cooled, and now Phillips threat­ened to re­lease some steamy love let­ters un­less she was paid. In one let­ter, Hard­ing wrote his lover that he longed to see her so much “I feel that there will never be any re­lief un­til I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips and then bury my face on your pil­low­ing breasts.”

That was one of the milder let­ters.

The il­licit af­fair could sink a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. So the Repub­li­can Party paid Phillips and her hus­band $20,000 and sent them on an all-ex­penses paid voy­age over­seas un­til the elec­tion was over.

To­day that $20,000 would be worth about $250,000. That is nearly dou­ble the $130,000 Trump paid Daniels be­fore the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to keep quiet about their al­leged af­fair.

This month, Daniels pub­lished her me­moir “Full Dis­clo­sure,” which in­cludes de­tails of her al­leged Trump tryst. It fol­lows the lead of Nan Brit­ton, with whom Hard­ing had an af­fair af­ter he was elected with a cam­paign prom­ise “to re­turn Amer­ica to nor­malcy.”

Brit­ton, who was three decades younger than the 54-year-old Hard­ing, also was the mother of their child, a daugh­ter whom the pres­i­dent never saw. The cou­ple had sex all over the White House, fre­quently in a very large cup­board near the pres­i­dent’s of­fice.

While this was go­ing on, the Se­cret Ser­vice kept close watch for Hard­ing’s ever-sus­pi­cious wife, Florence, who was known as “the Duchess.”

Hard­ing was a pop­u­lar pres­i­dent. He boasted about what would prove to be a short-lived eco­nomic re­cov­ery. He sup­ported tax cuts for busi­nesses and the rich, backed higher tar­iffs and sup­ported lim­its on im­mi­gra­tion.

The pres­i­dent largely ig­nored the de­tails of gov­ern­ment. When his In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Al­bert Fall brought him an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to se­cretly trans­fer some U.S. Navy oil re­serves in Wy­oming to the In­te­rior Depart­ment, Hard­ing signed the or­der with­out both­er­ing to read most of it.

The fed­eral oil lands were in a place called Teapot Dome. Fall was tak­ing bribes to al­low pri­vate oil com­pa­nies to drill on the prop­erty. In 1922, Hard­ing sud­denly found his ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der an ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Congress into the brew­ing Teapot Dome scan­dal.

To get away from Wash­ing­ton, in the sum­mer of 1923 Hard­ing and his wife took a good­will trip to the ter­ri­tory of Alaska and then went by train down to Cal­i­for­nia. Hard­ing fell ill and in San Fran­cisco, on Aug. 2, 1923, the pres­i­dent died of a sud­den heart at­tack. He was 57 years old.

An FBI agent ac­cused Florence Hard­ing of poi­son­ing her hus­band out of jeal­ousy over his af­fairs, but never pro­duced any ev­i­dence.

Most of the scan­dals of sex and cor­rup­tion in Hard­ing’s ad­min­is­tra­tion did not be­come fully known un­til af­ter his death.

Fall was con­victed of bribery in 1929. Two years ear­lier, Brit­ton pub­lished a best-sell­ing book about her af­fair with the late pres­i­dent and their child. Brit­ton was an­gered be­cause she was not in­cluded in Hard­ing’s will and pay­ments for their child were stopped.

Hard­ing sup­port­ers called Brit­ton’s kiss-andtell book fic­tion.

It was not un­til 2015 that mod­ern DNA proved Brit­ton’s claim that Hard­ing was the father of their child. In 2014 the hot love let­ters of Hard­ing and Brit­ton were pub­lished over the ob­jec­tions of Hard­ing’s an­ces­tors.

Hard­ing left a legacy that was a cau­tion­ary warn­ing for fu­ture phi­lan­der­ers in chief: Hell hath no fury like an­other woman scorned.

AP

Ances­tryDNA says ge­netic anal­y­sis has con­firmed Pres­i­dent Hard­ing fa­thered a child out of wed­lock.

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