Franklin Delano Roosevelt married

his fifth cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt.

At the wedding Eleanor was given away

by her uncle—Theodore Roosevelt,

president of the United States.

For FDR and Eleanor, though…

This was just the beginning of a lifetime of weirdness that involved mistresses, lesbians, and live-in lovers right there at the White House.

Most people would agree that the best way to avoid getting caught when having an affair is to have it with someone your spouse doesn’t know. Guess no one told FDR that—his first mistress was Lucy Mercer, Eleanor’s social secretary.

When Eleanor found out FDR was having an affair, she offered to let him out of their marriage. But FDR didn’t take her up on it; he knew his mistress Lucy, being Catholic, would never marry a man who was divorced. Oh, and there might have been one other small reason why FDR didn’t want to divorce Eleanor: he knew that if he did, his mother would cut him off from the family fortune.

After he and Lucy got caught, FDR had to find a new mistress. “Hey, I’ve got a great idea!” he might have thought to himself, “Maybe I’ll go look for one down in the secretarial pool!” But you can’t say he didn’t learn from experience—instead of having an affair with Mrs. Roosevelt’s new secretary, he had his next affair with a new secretary of his own. Her name was Missy LeHand, and everyone in the Roosevelt family—Eleanor and all six kids—knew about the relationship. Of course, it would have been impossible for them not to know—Missy was living with the president right there at the White House.

Obviously the president and Missy had to show some decorum. That’s why Missy had her own set of rooms—a living room, bedroom, and bath—at the White House, although she could frequently be seen sitting on the president’s lap in the Oval Office at night or in her bathrobe in the president’s own suite. Lady that she was, however, Missy was always gone by breakfast.

In the meantime, Eleanor embarked on a strange, “secret” life of her own that first involved a rough-hewn, cigar-chomping reporter from the Associated Press. Lorena Hickok was her name, and she and Eleanor were lovers (spiritually, if not physically) for more than ten years.

Eleanor and “Hick,” as Lorena was often called, had their own bizarre living arrangements at the White House. The two women had separate rooms across the West Hall and could often be seen running back and forth from one another’s quarters.

Eleanor was a good sport about FDR’s living arrangements with Missy—after all, it had been going on since he was governor of New York. On the other hand, the president wasn’t crazy about having Hick hanging around. One day, he stormed through the White House yelling, “I want that woman kept out of this house!” From that point on, the White House maids and Eleanor did everything they could to keep the president and Hick apart.

The weird story of the Roosevelts has many endings, by the way—but not all of them are happy:

• While living at the White House with Eleanor, Lorena Hickok fell in love with another woman and moved out.

• Missy LeHand suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, had to be hospitalized, and then died.

Oh, happy day!

* * *

FDR’s first Inauguration Day, that is. And why shouldn’t it have been happy? After all, FDR knew his wife would be there. And he knew that his lover, Missy LeHand, would be there. And he knew (but kept it a secret from both Eleanor and Missy) that his former lover, Lucy, would be there too.

Not that Eleanor would have noticed—after all, she spent the night before the inauguration at a hotel with Hick and, like a young schoolgirl in love, wore Hick’s sapphire ring on her finger as she attended the festivities of the day.


Or just very good friends?

* * *

Some have said that Eleanor’s attachment to strong women like Lorena Hickok was emotional but not physical. Following is a letter Eleanor sent to Hick in 1933—you be the judge:

“Good-night, dear one. I want to put my arms around you and kiss you at the corner of your mouth. And in a little more than a week now—I shall.”

• Shortly after Missy fell ill, the husband of FDR’s old flame, Lucy Mercer, had a devastating stroke, so she and FDR “took up” again.

• It was Lucy Mercer, not Eleanor, who was with FDR when he died of a stroke in 1945.

• Perhaps in these cases, money speaks louder than words. When FDR died his estate was worth an estimated $1.9 million. He left half of that to his wife, Eleanor, and the other half to cover Missy LeHand’s medical bills. There wasn’t a cent left over for Lucy Mercer.


Teddy Roosevelt’s wife, Alice, and his mother both died on the same day: January 14, 1884. His mother died of typhoid; his wife died of Bright’s disease three days after giving birth to daughter Alice.

Three years later Teddy married an old childhood friend, Edith. Together they had five children.

Unlike his naughty nephew, Teddy didn’t feel a need to run wild. Instead he was a devoted family man. Yet the Teddy Roosevelt White House was almost as much a zoo as FDR’s White House because Teddy got great joy from indulging his children’s every whim:

• Teddy allowed his kids to keep a few pets, including ten dogs named Susan, Skip, Scamp, Sailor Boy, Peter, Manchu, Allen, Gem, Jessie, and Bill; a horned toad named Bill; four guinea pigs named Bob Evans, Father Grady, Dewey Jr., and Dewey Sr.; a blue macaw named Eli Yale; Emily Spinach, a garter snake; two ponies named Algonquin and Fidelity; a badger named Josiah; two cats named Tom Quartz and Slippers; a bear named Jonathon Edward; a lion; and a one-legged rooster.

• Every member of Teddy’s family owned a pair of stilts—and that included the First Lady.

• Edith Roosevelt was so well coordinated and so good at playing different games and sports that young Quentin once said of her, “I’ll bet Mother was a boy when she was little.”

• When Archie Roosevelt was sick in bed with the measles, Teddy saw nothing wrong with letting sons Kermit and Quentin sneak Algonquin the pony up the White House elevator to visit him.

• Daughter Ethel was a notorious tomboy; one of her favorite things to do was to sit on cookie sheets and slide down the White House steps.

Teddy and Alice

* * *

After daughter Alice interrupted one of his meetings at the White House one day, Teddy threw up his arms in resignation and swore, “I can be president of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”

Did FDR treat his dog better than his wife?

* * *

Fala was a little Scottish terrier FDR took with him everywhere (although he certainly didn’t extend the same invitation to Eleanor). To the press and public Fala was known as “The Informer” because wherever FDR traveled—even if his plans were secret because of the war—Fala had to be walked at every train stop and thus gave the president’s “secret” presence away.

Will Hillary Clinton be America’s

SECOND “Mrs. President?”

The wife of President John Adams

(the second president of the United States)

had so much influence on her

husband during his term in office

from 1797 to 1801 that most

people referred to her as

“Mrs. President.”

“I’ve committed adultery in my heart…”


“Dan Quayle would rather play golf than have sex any day!”


Jefferson’s Legacy

Whether lusting inside one’s

heart or lusting inside the White House,

it didn’t begin with Jimmy Carter.

In fact, Thomas Jefferson, the man

who is called our greatest president

by many, was also the first to face

charges of sexual misconduct.

P.S. Many historians now agree

that Jefferson was the father of several

illegitimate children.


Was he a devoted and faithful husband?

Or the kind of guy who likes to mess around with married women and young girls?

The Thomas Jefferson Story, Part One

In the beginning there was Betsey Walker. She was pretty and vivacious, and she was also married to Thomas Jefferson’s good friend, William George Walker.

Jefferson was such a good friend of the bride and groom the couple asked him to be a member of their wedding party. Not only that, but Thomas Jefferson was such a trusted confidant and buddy to William George that when it was time for him to name an executor of his will, Jefferson was William George’s choice.

But then things went awry—terribly awry. On the eve of leaving town for four months to help negotiate a treaty with the Indians at Fort Stanwix, William George took his good friend and neighbor aside and asked him to keep an eye on his wife while he was gone. Little did William George know that Jefferson actually had the hots for his wife and that Jefferson would make a pass at her while he was away.

Only years later as the Walkers were rewriting their wills did William George learn of Jefferson’s attempted seduction of his wife; it happened when he told Betsey he intended to keep Jefferson as the executor of his will. She was appalled and told him of the incident from years ago.

The Thomas Jefferson Story, Part Two

At the age of twenty-eight, Thomas Jefferson married Martha Skelton. Jefferson was a loving and adoring husband, and some say Martha was the love of his life.

The problem is Martha and Thomas were only married for ten years. Then Martha died. No one has ever suggested that Jefferson cheated on his wife. In fact, when Martha asked him, while on her deathbed, to promise never to marry again, he promised and kept his word for the rest of his life.

The Thomas Jefferson Story, Part Three

For four years Jefferson played the role of the widower—no doubt wearing black for a while, and then slowly working his way back into a normal life.

Jefferson was only thirty-nine when Martha died, so we can assume every widow within two hundred miles plied him with casseroles and offers of company and more. He never promised Martha he would abstain from sex, after all.

By 1785, fifteen years before he was elected president, Jefferson was living in Paris and serving as US minister to France.

While attending a party, Jefferson met—and fell in love with—the wife of another man. Her name was Maria Cosway, and by all accounts she was a stunning blonde with a coquettish Italian accent, deep blue eyes, curly locks, and a darling cupid’s face.

But let’s not be sexist here—the attraction wasn’t purely physical. She also charmed the socks off Jefferson intellectually. She was a respected painter. She had a beautiful voice and loved to sing. She was a talented harpsichord player. She was a brilliant conversationalist. As long as Jefferson remained at the party, he found it difficult to leave her side—even though her husband, the renowned Italian painter Richard Cosway, was just on the other side of the room. To prolong the time he could spend in her company, he sent word to the Duchesse de la Rochefoucauld d’Anville, with whom he had dinner plans, that he would need to cancel their previously arranged date.

Jefferson spent the next eight weeks in the constant company of Maria Cosway. Her husband didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to encourage the affair and often left them alone.

When it was time for the Cosways to return to London, Thomas and Maria made plans to meet in Paris again—this time without Maria’s husband in tow. Yet when Maria arrived alone the following August as planned, Jefferson—as we say today—blew her off.

The Thomas Jefferson Story, Part Four

Over the years there has been much speculation as to why Jefferson would turn a cold shoulder to the woman who sparked such an intense reaction in him the year before. One theory—and our favorite—is that by the time Maria showed up for their next rendezvous he had already taken up with his next paramour.

What woman on earth could replace the beautiful, graceful, and charming Maria Cosway?

One would guess that she might be as young or younger. Probably even more beautiful. And wouldn’t you think she’d have to be someone who was more accessible?

Sally Hemings was all of those things and more—she was Jefferson’s slave. And she was the half-sister of Jefferson’s dead wife.

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings were together for thirty-eight years (including Jefferson’s eight years as president). Together, they were the parents of more than five children.

The Jefferson Addendums

Let’s get this straight:

Thomas Jefferson as a forty-eight-year-old man took as his lover a seventeen-year-old girl—who happened to be his slave as well as the half-sister of his dead wife?

Sounds impossible, but it’s true. Jefferson’s wife, Martha Skelton, was the daughter of John Wayles. When John Wayles’s third wife died, he took Betty Hemings, a slave, as his concubine, and they had six children, one of whom was Sally. When John Wayles died, he willed the slave children (including Sally) to his daughter Martha and her husband Thomas Jefferson.

• • •

If you want to get technical, Jefferson’s idea of a normal life ended when Martha became sick. That’s when he resigned from Congress to take care of her. Then, only eight weeks after she died, Jefferson let his friends in government know he was ready to return to the political arena. For that reason, there are those who say that if Martha had lived longer, Jefferson wouldn’t have returned to Washington so soon, and he might never have become our third president.

Can you name the president…

…who once lived with his wife in an apartment so small they had to share the bathroom with the prostitute down the hall?

A. Gerald Ford

B. George W. Bush

C. George H. W. Bush

D. Thomas Jefferson

E. All of the above

(Answer on page 25)

“Mrs. Who?”

When Martin Van Buren wrote

his autobiography after serving

as president from 1837 to 1841,

he failed to mention his

wife of twelve years.

Not even once.

For what it’s worth, Van Buren

may not have mentioned his

father either. Because a rumor floating

around during the mid-1800s said

that President Martin Van Buren

was in fact the illegitimate son of former

Vice President (and traitor and

murderer, but we’ll get to

that later) Aaron Burr.


Ben Franklin probably thought so; he was keeping mistresses well past his seventieth birthday—in an era when the average guy might have considered himself lucky to see sixty.

Granted, Ben was never president of the United States, but as one of our Founding Fathers and as a guy who was supposed to be setting an example for his fellow countrymen, his exploits are too good to pass up.

First, there’s the story of Ben and Deborah Read. Ben loved Deborah so much that he wanted to marry her. But according to the law he couldn’t: A woman who had been married once and then abandoned (as opposed to being divorced or widowed) couldn’t get married again.

The punishment for violating this law was pretty stiff: thirty-nine lashes at the public whipping post and a sentence of hard labor for life. So Ben did the next best thing. He asked Deborah to move in and live in sin with him.

Six months later Ben did something even more outrageous: He brought home a son he’d fathered by another woman. On top of that, he took in his new son’s mother so she could be closer to their child. So there were Ben and Deborah and the new baby and the new baby’s mom—all living in one house.

Weird family values…but they didn’t seem to hurt the boy. His name was William Franklin, and he went on to be the governor of New Jersey.

Ben didn’t seem to feel any shame about his sexuality either. In fact, he took great pleasure in writing about it. In the excerpt from a Ben Franklin letter below, he explains why, given the choice, he always prefers an older mistress over a younger one:

1. Because as they have more Knowledge of the World and their Minds are better stor’d with Observations, their Conversation is more improving and more lastingly agreeable.

2. Because when Women cease to be handsome, they study to be good. To maintain their Influence over Men, they supply the Diminution of Beauty by an Augmentation of Utility. They learn to do 1000 Services small and great and are the most tender and useful of all Friends when you are sick. Thus they continue amiable. And hence there is hardly such a thing to be found as an old Woman who is not a good Woman.

3. Because there is no hazard of Children, which irregularly produc’d may be attended with much Inconvenience.

4. Because thro’ more Experience, they are more prudent and discreet in conducting an Intrigue to prevent Suspicion. The commerce with them is therefore safer with regard to your Reputation. And with regard to theirs, if the Affair should happen to be known, considerate People might be rather inclin’d to excuse an old Woman who would kindly take care of a young Man, form his Manners by her good Counsels, and prevent his ruining his Health and Fortune among mercenary Prostitutes.

5. Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part: The Face first grows land and wrinkled; then the Neck, then the Breast, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement.

6. Because the Sin is less. The debauching a Virgin may be her Ruin, and make her Life unhappy.

7. Because the Compunction is less. The having made a young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflections; none of which can attend the making an old Woman happy.

8. [thly and Lastly] They are so grateful! Thus much for my Paradox. But still I advise you to marry directly.

Meet the hermit of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

* * *

Her name was Margaret Taylor. She was Zachary Taylor’s wife.

All the time she lived at the White House, she hid herself out of sight.

She didn’t like all the pomp and circumstance – she said – but this is more likely true:

Ol’ Margaret preferred smoking her corncob pipe over talking to the likes of you.


• When Ulysses S. Grant met Julia Dent, the first thing he noticed was that her eyes were crossed. He fell in love immediately and proposed marriage on the spot.

• Harry Truman met and fell in love with his wife, Bess, when he was six years old. The attraction? She was the only girl in town who could whistle through her teeth.

• While a young senator, JFK once described what he wanted in a wife to a newspaper reporter: “Intelligent, but not too brainy.”


In the years before she was married, Grace Goodhue was a teacher at an institute for the deaf. While watering the school’s garden one day, she looked up and saw a man, wearing only a hat and long underwear, standing in front of a mirror in a nearby boarding house. Surprised by this sight, she let out a laugh.

“He heard me and turned to look at me,” Grace later recalled. “When he learned who I was, he managed to arrange a formal introduction—and that is how I became Mrs. Calvin Coolidge.”

“Fathers” of Our Country?

• George Washington is often called

“The Father of His Country” even

though he never had any children.

• For what it’s worth, James Madison is

often called “The Father of the

Constitution,” but he didn’t

have any kids either.

• It’s also worth noting that Andrew

Jackson raised eleven kids in his

lifetime. None of them were his.


• Teddy Roosevelt’s son Quentin had his own gang: “The White House Gang.” Together, he and his friends did things like drop snowballs off the roof of the White House onto patrolling policemen and throw spitballs at the portraits of earlier presidents.

• Secretary of War Edwin Stanton invented a make-believe military post for his boss Abe Lincoln’s son Tad and outfitted the boy with his own Union Army uniform and sword. As a lieutenant, Tad took it upon himself to order additional weapons for the servants, to march the White House guards and other staff members around, and to dismiss guards who weren’t performing to his expectations.

• Jesse Grant, Ulysses S. Grant’s son, became interested in stamp collecting and ordered some stamps from a mail-order catalog. When the stamps didn’t arrive he convinced Kelly, one of the Capitol policemen, to write a letter. “I am a Capitol policeman,” Kelly wrote. “I can arrest anybody, anywhere, at any time, for anything. I want you to send those stamps to Jesse Grant. Kelly, Capitol policeman.” Jesse’s stamps arrived shortly afterward. Jesse also convinced American ambassadors overseas to send him stamps from the countries in which they were stationed. But his interest in stamp collecting waned when his mother made him send thank-you notes to everyone who sent him stamps.

• JFK and Jackie Kennedy hated TV and had all the televisions taken away from the White House when they moved in…until Caroline started to cry when it was time for Lassie to come on, and they had to have one of the White House servants bring one of the televisions back.


• All three of John Quincy Adams’s sons fell in love with the same girl, and she was pretty taken with at least two of them herself. First she got engaged to the middle son, George. Then she married the oldest son, John. George and Charles Francis, the youngest, were pretty steamed at her and refused to attend the wedding. To her credit, the bride did what she could for her two brothers-in-law to make up for her past indiscretions—she named a daughter Georgiana Frances after both of them.

• John Tyler had more kids than any other president—eight by his first wife and seven by his second. He was seventy when the last child, Pearl, was born. He was the first president to get married while in office, but his eight kids from his first wife (who had died) did not approve of the union and refused to attend the wedding.

Perhaps his kids objected to how they met

* * *

John Tyler was entertaining aboard a naval gunship when a cannon exploded and killed three of his guests, including his secretary of state, his secretary of the navy, and New York Senator David Gardiner.

Among the remaining guests was Senator Gardiner’s young daughter, Julia. When she heard of her father’s death, she fainted into the president’s arms. He fell in love and four months later the fifty-four-year-old Tyler and the twenty-four-year-old Julia Gardiner were married.


Grover Cleveland’s Love Child #1

First, let’s define some terminology: a love child is a child who is conceived out of wedlock. Not such an uncommon thing today, but terribly uncommon in 1884 when Grover Cleveland was running for president.

He was running quite a campaign, too, with a very strong lead over his opponent, until the Buffalo Evening Telegraph announced in huge, screaming type he was the father of an illegitimate son.

So Grover Cleveland did what no sane politician has ever done since, given similar circumstances: he told the truth.

He didn’t deny the charges. He didn’t try to cover his back. He didn’t demand a blood test, and he didn’t claim he hadn’t inhaled, so to speak.

Grover’s Truth

In 1871, while sheriff of Buffalo, New York, he met a nice woman named Maria Halpin. He liked her. She liked him. Next thing you know, she was in the family way.

It’s important to remember that Cleveland was a bachelor when he was dating Maria Halpin—but the same couldn’t be said for the other men she was seeing concurrently, any of whom could have been the father.

When Maria came to him with her sad story and demanded that he marry her, he said “No, thank you” but did the next best thing: he offered to provide financial support for the child even though there was a good chance it wasn’t his. And he didn’t just send money but took an active hand in watching out for the boy’s best interests. In fact, at one point when Maria began drinking heavily, Cleveland arranged for her to be institutionalized and for the boy to be adopted by a well-to-do family in New York.

The more the press (and the public) learned about Grover and the honorable way in which he had handled his relationship with Maria Halpin and the boy, the better he looked.

Grover Cleveland’s Love Child #2 (Sort Of)

Next thing you know, the newspaper headlines were screaming about another love child. Only this time the love child belonged to Cleveland’s opponent, James Blaine.

Turns out Mrs. Blaine gave birth to Junior Blaine only three months after Mr. and Mrs. Blaine were married. That would make Junior the second love child in our story.

Grover Does It Again

If Grover Cleveland had had his way, no one would ever have known that James Blaine’s child was born out of wedlock. In fact, the same informer who leaked the story to the press brought it to Cleveland first. Cleveland read the report, paid the informer, then tore up and burned the evidence. “The other side can have a monopoly on all the dirt,” he announced to his shocked and disappointed aides.

Blaine might have learned something from Cleveland about how to deal with the press—but he didn’t. Instead of telling the truth, Blaine tried to lie his way out of the story. But lying didn’t cut it with the press or the public, and Grover came out ahead at the polls.

Grover Cleveland’s Love Child #3

The president didn’t conceive this love child either—he married her.

Her name was Frances Folsom. She was the daughter of Cleveland’s law partner, and she used to call him “Uncle Cleve.” Frances was six when her father died and Cleveland became her legal guardian.

Fifteen years later, at the ages of forty-nine and twenty-one respectively, President Grover Cleveland and Frances Folsom were married.

Grover Cleveland’s Love Child #4

Her name was Baby Ruth. She was the very legitimate daughter of President Cleveland and his wife, Frances.

Unlike the other love children in Grover Cleveland’s life, there was nothing scandalous about her—except that Nestle’s named a candy bar after her and then kept the White House refrigerator and cabinets well-stocked with food. Ruth’s father, the president, whether contractually obligated to do so or not, ended every public appearance he made by saying, “A Ruth in every pot!”

America loved Baby Ruth. Visitors to the White House would find her playing on the lawn and pick her up and pass her around, excited to have had the chance to see her, touch her.

One day, however, little Ruth stopped going out to play on the lawn. Quickly, rumors spread that she was sick and being hidden from view. A few years later, the rumors proved to be true: Baby Ruth died of cerebral palsy at the age of thirteen.

A Modern-Day Morality Tale

John Edwards: The Anti-Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland repeatedly proved himself to be a stand-up guy. When he learned he might be the father of a love child, he was quick to do the right thing and offered financial support and even watched out for the child during his young life. He told the truth about his possible love child, even when the truth might be damaging.

Contrast this with the story of John Edwards, former U.S. senator, Democratic vice presidential candidate, and then presidential candidate.

During John Edwards’ run for the presidency:

• His wife actively campaigned for him, even though she had incurable breast cancer.

• During the campaign, he and his wife celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary at a local Wendy’s fast-food restaurant, where they had also celebrated their first wedding anniversary. They were seen and photographed smiling, holding hands, and looking very much in love. Earlier that day, they held a private anniversary ceremony at their home where they renewed their self-written vows in front of their three children, and a small group of family and friends.

• Meanwhile, John Edwards was secretly having an affair.

• Then he conceived a child with his mistress.

• When reporters asked about the affair, he denied it.

• When reporters asked about his love child, he denied it.

• When he finally copped to the affair, he denied the child was his.

• His love child was almost two years old before he publically acknowledged he was the father.

• His wife left him, then she died of breast cancer less than a year later.

October 11, 2007: Edwards denies having an affair to reporters in Summerton, South Carolina. “The story is false,” Edwards says, according to the Associated Press. “It’s completely untrue, ridiculous.… I’ve been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years, and as anybody who’s been around us knows, she’s an extraordinary human being: warm, loving, beautiful, sexy, and as good a person as I have ever known.“


Three years ago, with the scandal at its height, he ate lunch with an elderly couple at crowded Foster’s Market, a popular cafe in town where he looked at ease in Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt. As he left, patrons hissed at him. “It was more than audible; it was loud,” a witness recalls. “He kept walking toward the door as if he didn’t hear or see anything.”


Answer: George H. W. Bush

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