Sex Scandals The White House Couldn't Hide

The President of the United States is one of the world's most respected jobs. But as history (and the 2016 presidential race) has proven, it can also be one of the sleaziest. From affairs to jokes about private parts, there are no shortage of scandals that threatened to rock the White House over the last couple of centuries.

Bill Clinton hooked up with a White House intern

Of all the sex scandals to take place in the White House, the most famous one remains the alleged affair that President Bill Clinton had with intern Monica Lewinsky over the course of his two terms in office. In January 1998, news of Clinton's alleged affair with Lewinsky hit the media. The reports opened up a can of worms. Shortly thereafter, Clinton was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for denying his affair with Lewinsky under oath on two occasions: first, in a sexual harassment suit filed by a former Arkansas state staffer, Paula Jones; and then again in a grand jury investigation conducted by independent counsel Ken Starr. The charges were eventually brought before the House of Representatives, who voted to impeach Clinton in December that year; the Senate subsequently acquitted Clinton on both charges in February, 1999. Still, despite getting to keep his job, the scandal left devastating effects on Clinton's presidency; to this day, it's arguably what he's most remembered for. Lewinsky, meanwhile, got dragged through the mud by the press, which effectively destroyed her reputation for good. She later discussed her experience at the center of the scandal in a 2015 TED Talk, "The Price of Shame."

John F. Kennedy allegedly had lots of affairs

According to the New York Post, President John F. Kennedy was reported to have said many times that "If I don't have sex every day, I get a headache." So, it's no wonder then that the notorious womanizer was linked to many famous women over the years. Among the most famous, of course, was his alleged tryst with actress Marilyn Monroe, which writers for National Geographic, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail claim lasted mainly during a weekend at Bing Crosby's home in Palm Springs, California (and that Kennedy got rid of her shortly thereafter). Decades later, in 2012, Mimi Alford published a book alleging she had an affair with Kennedy while she was a 19-year-old intern in 1962. In her book, Once Upon a Secret, Alford alleges, among other things, that Kennedy summoned her to the White House the night before the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved, and that Kennedy asked her to perform sexual favors for members of his staff, including David Powers. Other famous women to whom Kennedy was linked over the years included actress Marlene Dietrich and Los Angeles socialite Judith Exner.

President Johnson loved to talk about his, um, 'Johnson'

Stories about Kennedy's affairs reportedly ticked off his then-Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson. According to The Atlantic, when the subject came up, Johnson would sometimes "bang the table and declare that he had more women by accident than Kennedy ever had on purpose." Indeed, according to Robert Caro's Pulitzer Prize-winning series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Johnson went to great lengths to let colleagues around him to know that he was packing heat. In Caro's book, Master of the Senate (via the New York Review of Books) Caro wrote that if a Senate colleague came into the bathroom while he was peeing, Johnson would sometimes turn around and flash his manhood, which he called "Jumbo," and say, "Have you ever seen anything as big as this?" Caro later corroborated his research in a 2013 interview with Stephen Colbert. "He had a great respect for [his penis]," Caro laughed. "When he was President, he liked to urinate off the back porch of his ranch. One night, a Secret Service man says, 'Mr. President, you ought to look out for rattlesnakes.' He says, 'Rattlesnakes?' He says, 'It IS part rattlesnake.'" Hail to the chief, indeed.

Thomas Jefferson might have fathered children with his slave

For over two centuries, historians have debated whether President Thomas Jefferson actually fathered some or all of the six children birthed by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. Rumors of their alleged affair date all the way back to his term in office. They were catalyzed by Jefferson's bitter rival, James T. Callender, who wrote about the scandal in a Virginia newspaper in 1802. Almost two centuries later in 1998, the scientific journal Nature published a report on DNA tests on the descendants of Jefferson and Hemings that, according to the New York Times, offered "compelling evidence that the nation's third President fathered at least one of her children." A little over a year later, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's research committee filed a long and detailed report that basically said, yeah, Jefferson probably fathered all six of Heming's kids. Despite the evidence, some historians still doubt that Jefferson was their father. But, come on. Anyone who's ever seen Law & Order: SVU knows you should never bet against DNA test results.

James Buchanan might have been gay

The idea of having a gay President may sound like a foreign idea even to the most progressive liberals today. But if certain historians are to be believed, we may have already had one. A fascinating article written by historian Jim Loewen for History News Network (via Salon) in 2012 points to several pieces of evidence that suggest that President James Buchanan, a noted bachelor, was not only gay but somewhat open about it as well. In one particular example, Loewen quotes a letter written by Buchanan to the wife of James I. Roosevelt after his alleged lover, William Rufus King, moved to Paris. "I am now 'solitary and alone,'" Buchanan wrote, "having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them." Prior to King's departure, historians also say that he shared a home with Buchanan for 10 years, adding further proof that Buchanan might have been gay after all. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but there's no question this would've been quite the scandal to America of the mid-19th century..

Warren G. Harding called his penis 'Jerry'

In 2014, the New York Times Magazine gave Americans new reasons to hate one of history's most unpopular presidents, Warren G. Harding, when it published his steamy, yet hilarious, letters to his mistress, Carrie Fulton Phillips, during their 15-year affair. Among the most ridiculous discoveries in the letters, which Harding's family had tried for decades to hide from the public, was that Harding referred to his private parts as "Jerry." "Oh, Carrie mine! You can see I have yielded and written myself into wild desire," Harding wrote to Phillips in 1913. "I could beg. And Jerry came and will not go, says he loves you, that you are the only, only love worthwhile in all this world." Five years later, things got even more embarrassing when he told Phillips he wished he could take her to, wait for it, "Mount Jerry." "Wonderful spot," he wrote. "Not in the geographies but a heavenly place, and I have seen some passing views there and reveled in them." Recapping the scandal, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver said it best when he declared, "Damn, Warren, you nasty!"