If asked to conjure the image of a lustful U.S. president, most of us would probably picture one William Jefferson Clinton. But love letters released last year by the Library of Congress—following a 50-year period of secrecy—remind us that Slick Willie is practically a monk compared to our 29th president, Warren G. Harding. Even the typically refined History Channel called Harding's adulterous letters "steamy," and his family tried to keep them from seeing the light of day.
Harding, who died in office and only served two years, was no stranger to scandal. Having won the 1920 presidential race with the largest popular vote margin in presidential history—based on a Republican platform of moderation and independence from European affairs (which didn’t pan out for too long)—Harding wasted no time getting embroiled in controversy. His repertoire includes a number of high-profile cases of corruption and bribery.
When not involved in sketchy political scenarios, Harding was apparently busy accruing a long list of mistresses. A thousand pages of love letters from Harding to one of his lovers, Clare Phillips—a friend of his wife's—reveal a long and tumultuous affair. Their entanglement began in 1905 and endured through the next 15 years of his time in politics.
Though the relationship reportedly ended just before Harding’s ascension to the presidency, he was back to his old tricks once in the Oval Office. A former campaign director for Harding alleged they got it on in a variety of patriotic places, including a White House coat closet. And Harding is thought to have had at least two other long-term mistresses, as well as “assorted other flings,” including a newspaper employee, chorus girls, and “a string of ‘New York Women.’”
How did he find enough hours in the day?
As for the object of those (hopefully) juicy letters? Phillips made out alright in the aftermath of the affair, successfully blackmailing the Republican Party and winning a monthly stipend and jobs for relatives. Which makes her decidedly savvier—if also more depraved—than poor Monica Lewinsky.