The Scandal of the Decade–Was It True?

President Waren G. Harding, philanderer-in-chief

President Waren G. Harding, philanderer-in-chief

I knew about the President Harding scandals–he was a good-looking man and a popular politician who was rumored to be unfaithful to his wife–but never thought they would be confirmed! In a very Clinton-like episode (see Gennifer Flowers and her claim to having had a 12-year affair with Clinton), Harding and his followers vilified the young woman who wrote about her long relationship with Harding and claimed that he was the father of her child. Well . . . good ol’ DNA proved her accusations were true. 

P.S. Harding is usually ranked at the bottom of U.S. presidents. 

Test Results Are In: At Last, Secret About Harding Is Out WASHINGTON — She was denounced as a “degenerate” and a “pervert,” accused of lying for money and shamed for waging a “diabolical” campaign of falsehoods against the president’s family that tore away at his legacy. Long before Lucy Mercer, Kay Summersby or Monica Lewinsky, there was Nan Britton, who scandalized a nation with stories of carnal adventures in a White House coat closet and endured a ferocious backlash for publicly claiming that she bore the love child of President Warren G. Harding. Now nearly a century later, according to genealogists, new genetic tests confirm for the first time that Britton’s daughter, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing, was indeed Harding’s biological child. The tests have solved one of the enduring mysteries of presidential history and offer new insights into the secret life of America’s 29th president. At the least, they demonstrate how the march of technology is increasingly rewriting the nation’s history books. The revelation has also roiled two families that have circled each other warily for 90 years, struggling with issues of rumor, truth and fidelity. Even now, members of the late president’s family remain divided over the matter, with some still skeptical after a lifetime of denial and unhappy about cousins who chose to pursue the question. Some descendants of Britton remain resentful that it has taken this long for evidence to come out and for her credibility to be validated. “It’s sort of Shakespearean and operatic,” said Dr, Peter Harding, a grandnephew of the president and one of those who instigated the DNA testing that confirmed the relationship to Britton’s offspring. “This story hangs over the whole presidential history because it was an unsolved mystery.” The Nan Britton affair was the sensation of its age, a product of the Roaring Twenties and a pivotal moment in the evolution of the modern White House. It was not the first time a president was accused of an extracurricular love life, but never before had a self-proclaimed presidential mistress gone public with a popular tell-all book. The ensuing furor played out in newspapers, courtrooms and living rooms across the country. Britton, who was 31 years younger than Harding, had a difficult time proving her relationship when she revealed it after his death in part because his family insisted he was sterile. “The family really vilified Nan Britton,” said Peter Harding, now 72 and a physician living in Big Sur, Calif. After finding Britton’s book, “The President’s Daughter,” among his father’s belongings, though, he and his cousin, Abigail Harding, decided to pursue the matter and made contact with James Blaesing, a grandson of Britton and son of the daughter she claimed to have conceived with the president. Testing by Ancestry.com, the genealogical web site, determined that Blaesing was a second cousin to Peter and Abigail Harding, meaning that Elizabeth Ann Blaesing had to be President Harding’s daughter. James Blaesing said Britton’s relationship with Harding was a love story. “She loved him until the day she died,” he said. PETER BAKER

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Published in: on August 21, 2015 at 11:15 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Time has a way of distorting history. It was during the presidency of Harding’s predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, that the world experienced the enactment of prohibition and the federal income tax, the Treaty of Versailles, and a massive flu epidemic. An affair in the White House seems far less harmful.

  2. Fascinating how new technology can rewrite history.
    One would think that history is history, and still, our knowldge can make us discover still new things.


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