The British historian Lord Acton once observed that ‘Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.’
No phrase better sums up Donald Trump’s disastrous term in the Oval Office. During his four-year stay in power, the former reality TV star has been involved in a litany of dodgy dealings and criminal acts. He’s had multiple sexual harassment cases levelled at him, called white supremacists ‘very fine people,’ hidden his tax returns and claimed voter fraud without a shred of evidence. Hell, he even managed to get the Russian’s to rig the 2016 election and escaped impeachment thanks to his Republican cronies being too afraid of what would happen if they disposed of him. History will remember Trump as one of, if not the worst Presidents. Of course, he’s not the first head of state to get caught with his pants down (literally and figuratively): here are six leaders of the free world who found themselves in hot water during their stay at the top.
Possibly the biggest skeleton to tumble out of the Presidential closet during the 70s, the Watergate Scandal was a widespread surveillance operation conducted by Republican members on their rivals to ensure Richard Nixon’s re-election. The plot first came to national attention when five men were arrested breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Complex. The initial investigation discovered the break-in was part of a far-reaching plan to spy on Democratic senators and sabotage the party’s election chances. Nixon denied being involved and his team tried to cover up the break-in, but the evidence was overwhelming, with dozens of government officials charged and Nixon himself forced to resign after the threat of impeachment.
Monika Lewinsky Affair
Bill Clinton’s legacy will forever be tied to Monika Lewinsky. In November of 1995, the President began a long-running affair with 22-year-old intern Lewinsky before it eventually came to light in 1998. The infamous scandal involved taped conversations, an explosive newspaper article and a semen-stained dress used as evidence against Clinton during impeachment proceedings after he vehemently denied having ‘sexual relations with that women.’ He did of course sleep with Lewinsky and despite becoming the second President to be impeached, was successfully acquitted by the Senate and continued to serve out his second term in office. It was later revealed Lewinsky wasn’t the first woman to be trapped by Clinton: the former Governor of Arkansas was involved in several sexual harassment incidents and lawsuits after the Lewinsky affair. If there’s a lesson to be learnt from Clinton’s ill deed, it’s this: keep your dick in your pants.
Before Trump’s disastrous reign in the Oval Office, Warren G. Harding was commonly referred to as America’s worst President. A lover of golf and poker, his two years the White House were marked by corruption and backroom dealings that only came to light after his death. One of his most dubious actions occurred after he gained control of oil reserves on federal land. Instead of awarding them to the highest bidder, Harding and his cronies accepted bribes and other assorted gifts in return for the rights to the Teapot Dome oil fields. When the scandal finally broke Harding was six feet under, with his interior secretary, Albert Fall, taking much of the blame and serving jail time for his part.
Grover Cleveland Sex Scandal
If you think Clinton’s sexual escapades were bad, prepare to be shocked by the actions of Grover Cleveland. On the campaign trail to become America’s 22nd President, it was revealed Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock a decade earlier. Not only that but the woman, Marie Halpin, claimed Cleveland had raped her. When the child was born Cleveland placed him in an orphanage and had Halpin committed to an insane asylum. Despite all this, Cleveland and his PR team managed to spin the incident and make him look like the good guy, painting Halpin as a drunk and unfit mother and Cleveland as a responsible man doing the right thing. He’d go on to win the election and serve two non-consecutive terms as President without any backlash.
During the 80s Iran and Iraq were at war and Iran reached out to the US for weapons. The American’s weren’t having a bar of it after putting an arms embargo on the country due to the Iran hostage crisis of 1979. This all changed when Iranian’s kidnapped another group of American’s a few years later. To get them back safely President Ronald Reagan sold Iran weapons while publicly declaring he had nothing to do with any type of arms for hostages deal. Further investigations found some of the money from the sales of the weapons was used to fund the right-wing militant group Contras, with the hope they would wipe out the socialist government of Nicaragua. This was not on, as Congress had passed a bill stating the Contras would receive no aid from the US. 14 of Reagan’s backroom staff were charged with the dodgy dealings, although Reagan escaped clean, even though he would later admit he was aware of everything that went down.
Thomas Jefferson’s Illegitimate Children
In 2017, nearly 100 historians and biographers voted Thomas Jefferson the 7th greatest President as part of C-Span’s Presidential Historian Survey. Hailed for his administrative skills, agenda-setting, crisis leadership and ability to persuade the public (which would come in handy), he was also involved in the first major illicit sexual affair. Shortly after the death of his wife, Jefferson engaged in a decades-long relationship with slave Sally Hemings. Jefferson denied the allegations and managed to serve two terms as President, but the rumours always dogged him. A DNA test in 1998 finally proved Jefferson was responsible for at least one of Heming’s six children.