Vagneur: From Harding to Trump, presidential affairs have spanned throughout the decades |

Vagneur: From Harding to Trump, presidential affairs have spanned throughout the decades

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore
Tony Vagneur

With great buildup in the air, we waited until finally Donald Trump was indicted for something to do with Stormy Daniels, not sure exactly what at this point, but it apparently involved money. Half the country appears to be quite pleased with that development, and he other half attempting to call foul.

As in most things having to do with the government or the law, time will tell; although in such cases, it moves excruciatingly slow.

Maybe Trump’s fling with Daniels and money is true, but from a personal standpoint, she’s a little more than what would interest this writer. I mean, top-heavy was never of great interest, and there’s the sneaking suspicion that even if it was, one wouldn’t be getting the appealing softness one might expect — but rather the obvious feel of implanted silicon. 

It’s true that Donald Trump is the first former U.S. president indicted for an alleged crime, and there’s something sad about that; but if one takes a wander through the seemingly infinite miasma known as the internet, there is so much government scandal to be found it would take the better part of a lifetime to read and understand each infraction of our ordered system.

A cursory reading off the top indicates that many involve money – lots of money – and little if any jail time. Over the years, taxpayers should be enraged.

The other leading offense seems to be illicit affairs or sexual impropriety. Is anyone surprised?

In the heady world of presidential politics, love children seem to appear out of the din only to be turned back into obscurity by truth and reality.

However, one recent case of such a child turned out to hold water. Remember John Edwards, the North Carolina senator who ran for vice president with John Kerry and then for president in 2008? Oops, his affair with filmmaker Rielle Hunter did produce a daughter, ending Edward’s 2008 political aspirations. His reputation was irretrievably broken, as his wife, who was suffering from cancer, died soon after he admitted to being the child’s father.

You can get caught, have your reputation ruined, and still try to make a comeback – or at least live outside the national spotlight, as Edwards has.  

Another man lived his life, had affairs, an illegitimate daughter, and died before his reputation could be maligned, at least from the extramarital affairs. 

Warren G. Harding (1865-1923), 29th president of the United States, had various scandals within his administration but may have had those overlooked, written off to being unaware of the circumstances. But one cannot write off intimate affairs with one of the opposite sex, particularly if they have been documented, as in his case, by love letters to and from one of his paramours or a book written by another detailing her affair with the president. He was a married man.

Under Harding, there was the infamous Teapot Dome Scandal, which made some of his cronies a lot of money; but perhaps the most egregious theft of money was made by the head of Veterans Affairs and a couple of construction company owners who falsified billing for new hospitals being built – a scam which likely netted the partners in crime over $200 million. That’s in 1920s dollars. 

Harding had an enduring, 15-year affair with a woman named Carrie Phillips, an Ohio neighbor and wife of one of his best friends. In getting ready to run for president, and to quash gossip that was starting to develop, Harding sent Phillips to Germany to get her out of town and to let the gossip dissipate.

While there, Phillips took up with another man and then attempted to blackmail Harding with his love letters. She was given $25,000 and a monthly stipend of $2,000 for not publishing the letters, ostensibly by the Republican Party. This affair was not made public until the love letters from Harding were discovered in 1963, many in great detail.  

That affair ended in 1920, but another simultaneously between him and Nan Britton, also a neighbor from Ohio, continued onward, resulting in a pregnancy. Britton was fairly certain the pregnancy resulted from a tryst on Harding’s Senate office sofa, although they’d had several assignations in a White House coat closet while the Secret Service stood guard.

During her pregnancy, she was ensconced in a New Jersey house, out of the firing line of Washington. Harding gave her monthly child support money ($500) for the child, whose legitimacy he never denied. 

Harding died in 1923, leaving Britton without money to raise their child. So, in desperation, she eventually wrote a book detailing their relationship, “The President’s Daughter,” in 1927. That pretty well let the cat out of the bag. A 2015 DNA test affirmed that Elizabeth Britton was indeed the daughter of Warren G. Harding.   

There are plenty of other examples of presidential and congressional malfeasance, but we’ve used up our word allowance. The moral: If you’re going to fool around, you’re likely to get caught.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at