Tags: Warren Harding | Scandals | Notoriety

Warren G. Harding Sex Scandals Have Given 29th President New Notoriety

By    |   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 01:59 PM

It's not often Americans today focus attention on Warren G. Harding, a more or less "forgotten" U.S. president.

But new disclosures about Harding's romantic relationship with a married woman — while he was married as well — have to some extent brought the 29th president back into the spotlight.

The Ohio Republican was a U.S. senator when he won his party's 1920 presidential nomination. Running with the promise of a "return to normalcy" following World War I, he trounced Democrat James Cox with the largest popular vote landslide in presidential history, 60 percent to 34 percent.

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In the White House, Harding signed the first federal child welfare program, created the Bureau of the Budget to prepare the first U.S. federal budget, and dealt with striking miners and railroad workers in part by supporting an eight-hour workday.

But Harding appointed many of his allies and campaign contributors to top positions, and his administration was plagued with corruption.

The most notorious scandal was the Teapot Dome affair, most of which came to light after Harding's death. His Interior Secretary was ultimately convicted of accepting bribes and illegal no-interest personal loans in exchange for the leasing of public oil fields in Wyoming to business associates.

Harding died suddenly during a visit to San Francisco in 1923, and was succeeded by his vice president, Calvin Coolidge.

An early poll of presidential historians in 1948 ranked Harding as the worst president in U.S. history — No. 29 out of 29 presidents. He was still dead last in a 1962 poll, and again in 1982, although one poll that year placed him ahead of William Henry Harrison.

In all polls of historians since 1948, Harding is at or near the bottom, with the exception of a 2008 survey by the U.K.'s Times that had him at No. 35 out of 42.

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Harding was back in the news in July of this year, when the Library of Congress publicly displayed letters exchanged between Harding and Carrie Fulton Phillips, one of several women that had an extramarital affair with Harding.

More than 100 intimate letters between Harding and Phillips — wife of Harding's businessman friend James Eaton Phillips — were discovered in the 1960s. The letters were donated to the Library of Congress by Harding's brother with the understanding that the library would honor the 50-year waiting period he requested before making them public.

Harding, who had married Florence Kling DeWolfe in 1891, began his romance with Phillips in 1905, and continued it until 1920, when Harding ran for president.

Some of the letters are sexually explicit, and at times are "deeply passionate," according to a statement from the Library of Congress.

Others involve political discussions between the future president and Phillips, including her opposition to the United States engaging in World War 1. Phillips had lived in Germany for several years and was strongly pro-German before and during the war.

Sen. Harding wrote in March 1917: "I represent a state with hundreds of thousands of German Republicans. Nobody knows better than I do that I seal my political fate by displeasing them."

But Harding did vote in the Senate in favor of a war resolution.

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It's not often Americans today focus attention on Warren G. Harding, a more or less "forgotten" U.S. president. But new disclosures about Harding's romantic relationship with a married woman — while he was married as well — have to some extent brought the 29th president back into the spotlight.
Warren Harding, Scandals, Notoriety
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2014-59-13
Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 01:59 PM
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