Desecrating the Oval Office
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 99 20:26:30 -0800
Subject: Desecrating the Oval Office
Forwarded-by: "Judy Webster" <email@example.com>
From: Kenneth Huey <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I sure wish I'd come across this story a few months ago, when it would have
been much more pointed. Be that as it may, I thought it was so delicious
that I just had to pass it on.
You'll recall that the details of the Lewinsky affair led certain parties
to decry Clinton's behavior on this point in particular, that his engaging
in illicit sex in the White House was a defilement of the sanctity of that
historic edifice, the nerve center of our nation's democratic government.
So heinous an outrage, it seemed, that Clinton could hardly have done worse
if he'd turned around and wiped himself afterwards on Betsy Ross's flag.
Well, I came across this story (which I have slightly edited, for space) in
Richard Zacks's delightful 1997 book, AN UNDERGROUND EDUCATION.
Warren Harding, running for Ohio governor in 1910, was having an affair with
his good friend's wife when another friend's fourteen-year-old daughter
started climbing on his lap at campaign strategy meetings.
The pair met again in a Manhattan hotel seven years later in 1917, and
fifty-two-year-old Senator Harding took twenty-year-old starstruck Nan
Britton's virginity, before a couple of house detectives burst in and
quickly escorted the couple out a side exit, Harding slipping one of the
men twenty dollars. "Gee, Nan," said Harding in the taxi cab, "I thought I
wouldn't get out of that for under $1,000!"
After being elected President in 1920, he continued to see young Nan
Britton, who in 1919 had given birth to a daughter, Elizabeth Ann.
The pair continued their affair in a soon-to-be notorious White House coat
closet. Here are Nan's own words of a private White House tour the President
gave her: "He introduced me to the one place where, he said, he thought we
might share kisses in safety. This was a small closet in the anteroom,
evidently a place for hats and coats, but entirely empty most of the time
we used it, for we repaired there many times in the course of my visits to
the White House, and in the darkness of a space not more than five feet
square the President of the United States and his adoring sweetheart made
When Harding died suddenly in office in 1923 amid the Teapot Dome oil lease
scandal, Nan Britton tried to convince the Harding estate to continue
monthly support payments for Harding's illegitimate daughter.
But the family refused, even after the death of Mrs. Harding in 1924. So
Nan Britton wrote a book, The President's Daughter, which she succeeded in
publishing in 1927, even after government Vice Squad agents had tried to
suppress it and no major publisher would handle it.
The book was prudishly ignored by the national press until fearless caustic
H. L. Mencken reviewed it for the Baltimore Sun. Sales took off and it hit
the bestseller list.
Harding's wife was buried alongside him, leading wags to note that this was
probably the first time in years that the couple had slept together.
Oh, and did I forget to mention?
Warren G. Harding was a Republican.
© 1999 Peter Langston