The Americans press is all atwitter over the fact that a bunch of United States Secret Service agents and soldiers apparently engaged the services of hookers in a country where prostitution is legal.
Boorish? Yes. Immoral? Definitely. Stupid? Absolutely. The end of democracy as we know it? Hardly.
People love political sex scandals and this recent not-so-secret servicing is getting its fair share of press time. Yet, other than being the basis for future golf jokes (my foursome has more hookers than a Secret Service detail), the scandal does not even make the top 10 of American political sex scandals. In all honesty, a story about non-elected, GS employees cavorting with hookers barely ranks above Jimmy Carter lusting in his heart and way below former Congressman Anthony Weiner cyber-texting his junk.
Truth be told, “Secret Service Gone Wild” is not even the biggest sex story of the month. In a trial starting this week, former Sen. John Edwards will try to convince a jury that being the biggest a-hole in America is not a crime.
So, for purely historical purposes, here are my top 10 American political sex scandals (federal edition).
10.) Hamilton pays to play. In a tawdry tale that set the standard of American political sex scandals for years to come, Alexander Hamilton played hide the treasury with a young woman who claimed she and her daughter had been abandoned. Delivering money to the woman that would have allowed her to return to her native New York, Hamilton said, “… it was quickly apparent that other than pecuniary consolation would be appropriate.” Hamilton continued to “console” the young woman for more than three years, paying her husband handsomely for the privilege.
9.) Hamilton’s revenge. Thomas Jefferson’s affair with his slave Sally Hemings should actually be in the top five, but for continuity I list it next to the story of his archrival, Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson played a role in exposing Hamilton’s affair to political pamphleteer James Callender (think Andrew Breitbart with a fistful of tri-folds). It was Callender who also exposed Jefferson’s dalliance with Hemings.
8.) Elizabeth Ray: a woman scorned. Try to keep up with me on this one. In the 1970s, Congressman Wayne Hayes divorced his wife and married staffer/mistress-number-one, moving staffer/mistress-number-two, Elizabeth Ray, up a notch on the concubine chain-of-command to the coveted staff position of mistress-number-one. Ray accepted the promotion, but spilled the beans to Rudy Maxa of The Washington Post after she was not invited to the wedding.
7.) Laughing like a Kennedy. The list of Kennedy family indiscretions is likely longer than the entire Secret Service rap sheet. Jack did Marilyn. So did his brother Bobby. Teddy couldn’t drive, but loved to shag for tail at La Colline and the Au Bar. There is a warehouse in Kansas City dedicated to housing the tell-all books about the royalty of America’s political families.
6.) Warren Harding. Acknowledged by presidential historians as the only person to occupy the White House named Gamaliel, Warren G. Harding’s many political scandals overshadowed the rumors that he bagged more women than all the Secret Service agents at the Cartagena Hilton combined.
5.) Monkey business with Gary Hart. Senator Gary Hart spent the 1988 presidential cycle trying to convince voters that he was the second-coming of Jack Kennedy, and then went out and proved it.
4.) Grover Cleveland, the ladies’ man. Bachelor Grover Cleveland paid child support for a kid he never formally acknowledged as his own, prompting political rivals to write the first rap lyric: “Ma, Ma, where’s my pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!”
3.) Fannie Foxe. When the automobile carrying House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Mills was pulled over in D.C. in 1974, stripper Fannie Foxe ran out of the car and jumped into the Tidal Basin in an effort to escape police. Remarkably, Mills won re-election with 60% of the vote. Months later, following a drunken, impromptu press conference in Foxe’s dressing room at a Boston strip club, Mills resigned.
2.) Out of the presidential closet. Long before Rep. Barney Frank was fixing D.C. parking tickets for his live-in, President James Buchanan was being accused of having a gay relationship with his housemate, future Vice President William Rufus King. In the first known record of American political gay-bashing, President Andrew Jackson frequently referred to the couple as “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy” and the governor of Tennessee called them “Buchanan and his wife.”
1.) Bill Clinton. The impressive thing about President Bill Clinton’s sex scandals is not the long list of women, but the long list of vocal opponents and impeachment-pushers forced out of their glass houses to admit to their own affairs.
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny, has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.