Presidential perving existed long before Clinton and Monica Lewinsky; before Trump and Stormy Daniels; before Trump and Karen McDougal; before Trump and Moscow hookers; before Trump getting accused by an ex-wife of rape; before Trump and … Earlier presidents were just lucky to live in eras when the media and public had less of an appetite for nonstop reporting about the president’s penis.
Following are ten presidential sex scandals that would rock America if it happened today. Then again, maybe not.
Grover Cleveland, a Date Rapist Who Took Corruption to New Levels to Silence His Victim
Grover Cleveland (1837 – 1908) is best known today for being the only American president to serve two non-consecutive terms. He was elected America’s 22nd president in 1884, won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College in 1888, then bounced back and was elected America’s 24th president in 1892. A Democrat reformer, Cleveland left his mark by fighting the day’s endemic political corruption and had a reputation for integrity and honesty. He was also known for surviving sex scandals that would sink any Democrat today.
With some exceptions, such as with Thomas Jefferson, most presidential perversions and sex scandals involved consensual hanky panky, or boorish conduct amounting to workplace sexual harassment. Inappropriate behavior, but not violent criminal conduct. Not so with Grover Cleveland: his biggest sex scandal involved straightforward rape, and shocking levels of corruption and abuse of power in covering it up.
It began on the evening of December 15th, 1873, with a chance street encounter in Buffalo. That was when Maria Halpin ran into Cleveland, then a prominent lawyer and former Sheriff of Erie County, which included Buffalo. Cleveland, a stocky six-footer who had been courting Halpin for months, invited her to dinner at a restaurant, and she accepted. After a pleasant meal, he escorted her back to her boarding house, and there, the pleasantness stopped. According to Halpin in an affidavit, the future president sexually assaulted her “by use of force and violence and without my consent“. When she threatened to report the rape, she added, the former sheriff threatened her into silence. As her affidavit continued, Cleveland: “told me he was determined to ruin me if it cost him $10,000, if he was hanged by the neck for it. I then and there told him that I never wanted to see him again, and commanded him to leave my room, which he did“.
A few weeks later, Halpin discovered she was pregnant, and she gave birth to a baby boy in September of 1874. When she declared that Cleveland was the father, he used his connections to shut her up. He had the child removed from his mother’s care and placed in an orphanage and had Halpin herself committed to a mental asylum. She was quickly released after an evaluation concluded that she was not insane, and had only been sent there in an egregious abuse of power by corrupt political elites.
Because real life is not fair, and justice and karma are often a joke, Cleveland got away with it. He went on to get elected Mayor of Buffalo, then Governor of New York, before running for president in 1884. News of the scandal and his illegitimate child came out during the presidential campaign, and his opponents attacked him for the contrast between his do-gooder public persona, and his seedy private life. A chant by opponents, mimicking a baby crying “Ma! Ma! Where’s my Pa?!” dogged the Cleveland campaign. He won, however, and his supporters retorted with the counter chant: “Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!”