List of federal political sex scandals in the United States
Over the centuries, many sex scandals have involved incumbent United States federal elected politicians, as well as persons appointed with the consent of the U.S. Senate. Sometimes the officials have denied the accusations, or have apologized, or have lost their office in consequence of the scandal (e.g. by resigning or being defeated or deciding not to run again).
This list is ordered chronologically. There is some emphasis on sex scandals since the mid-1970s, because before then the media was less inclined to cover these matters. Additionally, outing people because of perceptions that their political positions are anti-gay has became increasingly common since 1989. More generally, any perceived inconsistency between personal conduct and policy positions makes a politician's sex life more likely to become publicized.
For these listed people, either the scandal, or the behavior which gave rise to it, occurred while they were occupying their high federal offices, and one or the other date may be used here, even if coverage of the scandal was entirely posthumous. Politicians' sex crimes are not covered in this particular list, regardless of whether there has been a verdict yet.
One of the definitions of sex is "physical activity in which people touch each other's bodies, kiss each other, etc." Thus, instances or accusations of sexism or homophobia that do not include or seek that sort of physical activity are not covered by this list.
Scandal is defined as "loss of or damage to reputation caused by actual or apparent violation of morality or propriety". Scandal is not the same as controversy, which implies two differing points of view, and is also not the same as unpopularity. Misunderstandings, breaches of ethics, or cover-ups may or may not result in scandals depending on the amount of publicity generated, and the seriousness of the alleged behavior.
- Hamilton-Reynolds sex scandal: Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton (F) had an affair with Maria Reynolds while both were married to other people. Reynolds' husband blackmailed Hamilton who paid to maintain secrecy. In 1797, when Hamilton no longer held the post of Treasury Secretary, the affair was publicized by journalist James Callender, after which Hamilton publicly apologized. Said Hamilton: "This confession is not made without a blush....I can never cease to condemn myself for the pang which it may inflict in a bosom eminently entitled to all my gratitude, fidelity, and love." (1796)
- Jefferson–Hemings controversy: President Thomas Jefferson (DR) was publicly accused of fathering the children of his slave Sally Hemings, by journalist James Callender (who had also publicized Alexander Hamilton's affair). Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson's late wife Martha, and based partly upon DNA evidence there is now a scholarly consensus that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings did have several children together. (1802)
- Andrew Jackson (DR then D), U.S. Congressman, U.S. Senator, Governor of Florida, and later President of the United States, had married Rachel Donelson Jackson in 1791. Both of them believed her divorce from her abusive, alcoholic first husband, Lewis Robards, was final. However, Robards had never completed his paperwork, rendering Jackson and Rachel's 1791 marriage void; and the couple married again in 1795. Throughout his later career, opponents of Jackson portrayed Rachel as a bigamist. Shortly after he was elected president in 1828 (but before the inauguration) Rachel suffered a nervous collapse and died. Jackson blamed this on the bigamy charges during the campaign, and he was bereft at the loss of his wife.
- Richard Mentor Johnson, Senator (D-KY), did not attempt to hide his relationship with a slave named Julia Chinn, which caused his own party to distance themselves from him and contributed to his failed Senate re-election bid in 1828. Though they were prohibited from marrying, Johnson treated her as his common-law wife, and they had children. She died in 1833, before he became Vice-President under Martin Van Buren.
- Petticoat Affair: Secretary of War John Henry Eaton (D) had had an affair with the wife of John B. Timberlake, which allegedly drove Timberlake to suicide. Eaton then married the widow, Margaret, which led to social and political difficulties during the administration of President Andrew Jackson (1831).
- James Henry Hammond, U.S. Representative and later Senator (D-SC), engaged in a homosexual relationship with a college friend, pursued what he called "a little dalliance" with his teenage nieces, and had sexual relationships with female slaves including a girl aged 12. The affair with his nieces became public in 1843, and forced Hammond to withdraw his Senate bid in 1846, but he later became a U.S. Senator in 1857.
- Daniel Webster, U.S. Senator (W-MA), was the subject of accusations by a reporter, Jane Grey Swisshelm, in May of 1850 while he was married and still serving in Congress: "His mistresses are generally, if not always, colored women — some of them big black wenches as ugly and vulgar as himself". The national press widely copied the charges, which are at least partly corroborated by other sources. (1850)
- James Buchanan (D), U.S. Senator, diplomat, later President of the United States, and William Rufus King (D-NC) who served as Vice-President under Franklin Pierce and who died in 1853 before Buchanan became president, were the subject of scandalous gossip alleging a homosexual affair in Washington, D.C., for many years. Andrew Jackson referred to King as "Miss Nancy". (1850s)
- Grover Cleveland, President (D): During the 1884 election, Cleveland, up until then a bachelor, was said to have paid child support to Maria Crofts Halpin, even though he may not have been the father of her son born in 1874 (which was long before Cleveland held federal office). Halpin had sex with others, including Cleveland's friend and future father-in-law, Oscar Folsom, for whom the child was named. Cleveland's request to his supporters was simple: "tell the truth". The controversy prompted Cleveland's opponents to adopt the chant, "Ma, ma, where's my pa?" After Cleveland won the election, the chant was answered by, "Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!" (1884)
- William Campbell Preston Breckinridge, Congressman (D-KY). Former mistress Madeleine Pollard sued Breckinridge for breach of promise after his wife died and he failed to marry Pollard as promised. The congressman was not reelected. (1894)
- Warren Harding, President (R): While married to his wife Florence, he supposedly had affairs with Carrie Phillips and Nan Britton. (1921–1923). After Harding's death, Britton claimed in a best-selling 1927 book, The President's Daughter, that her daughter had been fathered by Harding while he was a U.S. senator, although this was never proven by paternity testing.
- David I. Walsh, Senator (D-MA), was accused of visiting a male brothel frequented by Nazi spies in Brooklyn in 1942.
- John F. Kennedy (D), President, was linked to a number of extramarital affairs, including with intern Mimi Alford during 1962–1963.
- William O. Douglas (D), a judge on the U.S. Supreme Court, pursued other women while married, which, combined with his three divorces and remarriages, was considered scandalous. He also tried to molest a flight attendant in his judicial chambers. Attempted impeachment based upon his moral character failed. (1960s)
- Wilbur Mills, Representative (D-AR), was found intoxicated with stripper Fanne Foxe. He was re-elected anyway, but resigned after giving an intoxicated press conference from Foxe's burlesque house dressing room. (1974)
- Allan Howe, Representative (D-UT), was arrested for soliciting two police officers posing as prostitutes. (1976)
- John Young, Representative (D-TX): A former female staffer said she received a pay raise after giving in to Young's sexual advances. (1976)
- Wayne Hays, Representative (D-OH): The Elizabeth Ray sex scandal ended his career in 1976. The Washington Post reported that Ray had been on the payroll of a committee run by Hays for two years as a clerk-secretary. During that time, she admitted, her actual job duties were providing Congressman Hays sexual favors: "I can't type, I can't file, I can't even answer the phone." (1976)
- Fred Richmond, Representative (D-NY): Charges that he solicited sex from a 16-year-old boy were dropped after he submitted to counseling. (1978)
- Robert L. Leggett, Representative (D-CA), acknowledged that he fathered two illegitimate children by a Congressional secretary, whom he supported financially. He then had an affair with another woman, who was an aide to Speaker Carl Albert.
- Robert Bauman, Representative (R-MD), was charged with attempting to solicit sex from a 16-year-old male prostitute. Upon completing an alcoholism rehabilitation program, the charges were dropped. Bauman apologized to voters for his indiscretions but was defeated for re-election. (1980)
- Thomas Evans, Representative (R-DE), went golfing in Florida with nude model and lobbyist Paula Parkinson, who later suggested her lobbying techniques had been "unusually tactile".  Though Evans apologized for any appearance of impropriety, he was voted out of office in 1982. Future Vice-President Dan Quayle and Congressman Tom Railsback went on the golf trip too but were not implicated in the sex. Marilyn Quayle said it was common knowledge that her husband would "rather play golf than have sex any day." (1981)
- John Schmitz, Representative (R-CA), leader of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society, admitted to having a second family, but refused to accept or support the two children he produced who became wards of the state. (1982)
- Dan Crane, Representative, (R-IL), was censured July 20, 1983, in the Congressional Page sex scandal for having sex with a young congressional page. (1983)
- Gerry Studds, Representative (D-MA), was censured July 20, 1983, in the Congressional Page sex scandal for having sex with a young congressional staffer. (1983)
- Dan Burton, Representative (R-IN): In 1995 speaking of the then-recent affairs of Republican Robert Packwood and the unfolding affair of Democrat Bill Clinton Burton stated "No one, regardless of what party they serve, no one, regardless of what branch of government they serve, should be allowed to get away with these alleged sexual improprieties...." In 1998 Vanity Fair printed an article detailing an affair which Burton himself had in 1983 which produced a child. Before publication Burton admitted to fathering a son with a former state employee.
- Gary Hart, Senator (D-CO): while seeking the Democratic nomination for president, Hart was photographed with model Donna Rice on a boat named 'Monkey Business' during a trip to the Bahamas. His popularity plummeted and he soon dropped out. (1987)
- Ernie Konnyu (R), Konnyu was accused of sexual harassment. He had asked a female aide to move a name tag she was wearing because it was drawing attention to her breasts, about which he later said: "She is not exactly heavily stacked, OK?" In another instance, he reportedly touched the knee of lobbyist Polly Minor during lunch, which caused a scene. GOP leaders were unhappy with Konnyu's temperament anyway, so they found Stanford professor Tom Campbell who ousted Konnyu the following June. (1987)
- Jim Bates, Representative (D-CA), made sexual advances toward female staffers. (1988)
- Edward Kennedy (D-MA), U.S. Senator, was often portrayed scandalously in gossip columns and tabloids, owing to numerous and barely concealed extramarital affairs plus notorious public incidents, including public sex in 1985 and 1987 at La Brasserie restaurant in Washington D.C. (1980s)
- Brock Adams, Senator (D-WA), was accused by eight women of committing various acts of sexual misconduct, ranging from sexual harassment to rape. Adams denied the accusations, there was no criminal prosecution, and he did not run for re-election. (1992)
- Barney Frank, Representative (D-MA), was reprimanded by the House for fixing 33 parking tickets for Steve Gobie, a male escort who lived with Frank and claimed to have conducted an escort service from Frank's apartment without his knowledge. (1989)
- Gus Savage, Representative (D-IL), was accused of trying to force himself on a female Peace Corps worker while in Zaire. No action was taken by the House Ethics Committee after he apologized to her. (1989)
- Donald "Buz" Lukens, Representative (R-OH), resigned before facing an investigation that he fondled a female Washington elevator operator. (1990)
- Charles S. Robb Senator (D-VA) while married to Lynda Bird Johnson, Robb acknowledged drinking champagne and having a nude massage with Miss Virginia Tai Collins denying an affair, though he admitted an "indiscreet friendship". Collins claimed it was an 18-month affair. Soon after, Collins appeared nude in Playboy.(1991)
- Robert Packwood, Senator (R-OR), resigned his office after 29 women came forward with claims of sexual harassment, abuse, and assaults. His denials of any wrongdoing were eventually contradicted by his own diaries boasting of his sexual conquests. (1995)
- Ken Calvert, Representative (R-CA), was involved with a prostitute, but claimed that no money was involved, and he was not arrested. Calvert apologized: "My conduct that evening was inappropriate....it violated the values of the person I strive to be." (1993)
- Helen Chenoweth-Hage, Representative (R-ID), called for the resignation of Bill Clinton, and then admitted in 1998 to having had a six-year affair with a married rancher before she entered government. Chenoweth said: "Fourteen years ago, when I was a private citizen and a single woman, I was involved in a relationship that I came to regret, that I'm not proud of....I only wish I could have learned the lessons sooner." (1998)
- Bob Barr, Representative (R-GA), had an affair while married. Barr had been the first lawmaker in either chamber to call for Clinton's resignation due to the Lewinsky affair. Barr lost a primary challenge less than three years after the impeachment proceedings.
- Robert Livingston, Representative (R-LA), called for the resignation of Bill Clinton and when his own extramarital affairs were leaked, his wife urged him to resign and urge Clinton to do likewise.(1998)
- Newt Gingrich, Representative (R-GA) and leader of the Republican Revolution of 1994, resigned from the House after admitting in 1998 to having had an affair with his intern while he was married to his second wife, and at the same time he was leading the impeachment of Bill Clinton for perjury regarding an affair with his intern Monica Lewinsky. (1998)
- Henry Hyde, Representative (R-IL): in 1998, Salon.com stated that from 1965 to 1969 (before Hyde won federal office), he conducted an extramarital sexual affair with a married woman who had three children from her marriage. Hyde, who was 41 years old and married when the affair occurred, admitted to the affair in 1998, describing the relationship as a "youthful indiscretion".The revelation of this affair took place as Hyde was spearheading the impeachment hearings of President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
- Bill Clinton, President (D): Revelations that White House intern Monica Lewinsky had oral sex with Clinton in the Oval Office leading him to famously declare on TV on January 26, 1998, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." The scandal led to impeachment by the House for perjury, for lying about the affair under oath. He was acquitted in the Senate with 55 senators voting Not Guilty to 45 senators voting Guilty (falling 22 votes short of the two-thirds necessary to convict). (1998)
- Gary Condit, Representative (D-CA): his affair with 23-year-old intern Chandra Levy was exposed after Levy disappeared. Her body was found a year later and in 2008, an illegal immigrant with no relation to Condit was charged with her murder. (2001) Condit had often demanded that Bill Clinton "come clean" about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
- Ed Schrock, Representative (R-VA), announced he would abort his 2004 attempt for a third term in Congress after allegedly being caught on tape soliciting sex from a male prostitute after having aggressively opposed various gay-rights issues in Congress, such as same-sex marriage and gays in the military.
- Strom Thurmond, Senator (R-SC), noted segregationist, fathered a child, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, with a 15-year-old African American who was employed by the Thurmond family. (1925; made public in 2003)
- Steven C. LaTourette, Representative (R-OH), was elected in 1994 and had voted to impeach Bill Clinton for the Lewinsky scandal. He himself had a long-term affair with his chief of staff, Jennifer Laptook, while he was married. He married Laptook after his divorce. (2003)
- David Dreier, Representative (R-CA), voted against a number of gay rights proposals, but was outed concerning his relationship with his chief of staff. (2004) He is featured in the 2009 documentary film Outrage.
- Don Sherwood, Representative (R-PA), failed to win re-election following revelations of a five-year extramarital affair with Cynthia Ore, who accused him of physically abusing her. (2004)
- Mark Foley, Representative (R-FL), resigned his House seat when accused of sending sexually explicit e-mails to teenage male congressional pages. He was replaced by Tim Mahoney. (2006)
- David Vitter, Senator (R-LA), took over the House seat of former Congressman Robert Livingston, who resigned in 1999 following revelations of an extramarital affair. At the time, Vitter stated, "I think Livingston's stepping down makes a very powerful argument that (Bill) Clinton should resign as well...." Vitters' name was then discovered in the address book of the DC Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey. (2007)
- Randall L. Tobias (R), Deputy Secretary of State and former "AIDS Czar" appointed by George W. Bush, stated that U.S. funds should be denied to countries that permitted prostitution. He resigned on April 27, 2007, after confirming that he had been a customer of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the DC Madam.
- Tim Mahoney, Representative (D-FL) was elected to the seat of Mark Foley, who had resigned following sexual harassment charges from his congressional interns. Mahoney ran on a campaign promise to make "a world that is safer, more moral". In October 2008, he admitted he placed his mistress on his staff and then fired her, saying, "You work at my pleasure." He then admitted to multiple other affairs.
- Vito Fossella, Representative (R-NY), was arrested for drunken driving. Under questioning, the married Congressman and father of three admitted to an affair with Laura Fay that produced a daughter. (2008)
- John Edwards, Senator (D-NC), admitted to an extramarital affair with actress and film producer Rielle Hunter, which produced a child, seriously undercutting his 2008 presidential campaign. (see federal political scandals)
- John Ensign, Senator (R-NV), resigned his position as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee on June 16, 2009, after admitting he had an affair with the wife of a close friend, both of whom were working on his campaign. Under investigation, he then resigned his Senate seat 20 months early. (2011) In 1998, Senator Ensign had called for President Bill Clinton (D) to resign after admitting to sexual acts with Monica Lewinsky. (2009)
- Chip Pickering, Representative (R-MS): on July 16, 2009, it was announced that his wife had filed an alienation of affection lawsuit against a woman with whom Chip allegedly had an affair. The lawsuit claimed the adulterous relationship ruined the Pickerings' marriage and his political career. (2009)
- Eric Massa, U.S. Representative (D-NY), resigned to avoid an ethics investigation into his admitted groping and tickling of multiple male staffers. He later stated on Fox News, "not only did I grope [a staffer], I tickled him until he couldn't breathe," (2010)
- Mark Souder, U.S. Representative (R-IN), a staunch advocate of abstinence and family values, resigned to avoid an ethics investigation into his admitted extramarital affair with a female staffer.(2010)
- Chris Lee, married U.S. Representative (R-NY), resigned hours after a news report that he had sent a shirtless picture of himself flexing his muscles to a woman via Craigslist, along with flirtatious e-mails. He did not rely on a pseudonym or a false e-mail address but used his official Congressional e-mail for all communication. Lee said: "I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents.... I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness.” (2011)
- Anthony Weiner (D-NY), newly married U.S. Representative, admitted to sending sexually suggestive photos of himself to several women through his Twitter account. He resigned on June 16. Weiner kept sexting after his resignation. (2011)
- David Wu, U.S. Representative (D-OR), resigned from the House of Representatives after being accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a fundraiser's daughter. July 26, 2011.
- Vance McAllister, U.S. Representative (R-LA), who is married and the father of five, was caught on surveillance camera deeply kissing a married staffer. Several prominent Republicans asked McAllister to resign. In response, he stated he would not seek re-election in 2016. McCallister said: "There's no doubt I've fallen short and I'm asking for forgiveness. I’m asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve".
- List of federal political scandals in the United States
- Newport sex scandal, involving behavior by U.S. Navy sailors in 1919.
- List of American federal politicians convicted of crimes
- List of United States senators expelled or censured
- List of United States Representatives expelled, censured, or reprimanded
State and local politics:
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