Most people can still remember the scandal that involved former president Bill Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky. The scandal involved a sexual act in the Oval Office and a stained Blue dress. Clinton, however, is hardly the only American president with White House misadventures. Consider Warren Harding, the 29th American president who was a native born Ohioan from Blooming Grove, Ohio.
Harding also had a scandals that didn’t get resolved until many years after his death. His problems involved an illegitimate daughter, fraud involving oil and suspicion surrounding his death.
On August 2, 1923, Harding died in a San Francisco hotel room. He died just months short of his 58th birthday. During his time as president, the public had given him a high approval rate. After his death, the public became suspicious of his death. Many conspiracy theorists and the media came to many unfounded conclusions. But the suspicions grew even worse after First Lady Florence Harding didn’t want an autopsy performed. One former staff member had even falsely claimed in a book that the First Lady had poisoned Harding.
In 1923, the official cause of death was a stroke. Although Harding had previously experienced heart issues, a heart attack wouldn’t be attributed to his death until many years later.
His body was sent to Marion, Ohio for burial. His wife Florence would be laid to rest with him in 1924. It wasn’t until after Harding’s death did the public learn of his questionable actions. The one scandal that most affected his legacy was called the Teapot Dome. It involved government corruption, bribery and oil barons that revolved around a teapot shaped rock formation in Casper, Wyoming. The formation held oil reserves to only be used for emergency. Originally, the U.S. Navy supervised the land until 1921 when President Harding transferred supervision of the reserves to Albert Bacon Fall, the Department of the Interior. Fall then secretly allowed different oil companies rights to the reserves.
Another scandal following Harding’s death was an illicit affair with a woman named Nan Britton who gave birth to a daughter named Elizabeth Ann Blaesing. Detractors claimed Harding was infertile and couldn’t produce children. In 2015, a DNA comparison by ancestry.com proved Blaesing was indeed Harding’s biological daughter.
And then you have the rumors surrounding Harding’s death. In the 1920s, it was believed by the public that Harding was possibly murdered. Some claimed he may have been poisoned or starved to death. The public believed his doctors may have been involved.
Today, it’s accepted that Warding died of a heart attack. In a book titled “The Strange Deaths of President Harding” author Robert Ferrell mentioned in an interview C-SPAN that Harding had died of a heart attack. He explained that Harding had an enlarged heart and that doctors during the 1920s didn’t have a grasp on heart attacks. This made it easier for them to conclude he died of a stroke.
Today, Harding is considered one of the worst presidents in American history. His legacy includes corruption, scandal and a reputation as a womanizer. Harding hasn’t done anything unusual from other presidents who have since proceeded him. President Trump’s latest woes involve immigration and sordid details about past relations with a former adult movie star. As Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page at http://www.lifewithgrandpa.com. He also wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on Amazon.com.