Historically yours – Goodwin, harding and the press

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Noted historian Doris Kerns Goodwin on Meet the Press, relating to the New York Times-John McCain article, discussed the responsibility of the press in presidential elections. She zeroed in on Republican Warren G. Harding’s presidential election in 1920, stating that the press knew and chose not to make public disclosure during the campaign about the adulterous relationship that existed between Harding and Carrie Phillips, his mistress of 15 years. The press also failed to disclose the fact that the Republican National Committee, to avoid possible disclosure during the campaign of the illicit affair, paid Carrie and her husband James $20,000 and sent them on a free, slow-boat to Japan. In June 1920, the Republican Nominating Convention was deadlocked after numerous ballots. None of the three front-runners were able to reach the magical number for nomination.

Harding, from Ohio, “the darkest of the dark horses” and least qualified of all the candidates, was call into the smoke-filled room at the Blackstone Hotel at 2 AM and was asked: “Do you have any skeletons in your closet?” Harding reflected several minutes and then replied, “No, I have nothing to hide.” Harding then became the Republican candidate for president. It seems as though Harding forgot to mention that he had sent dozens of love letters to Carrie. The affair began in Harding’s hometown of Marion, Ohio. For many years, neither of their spouses suspected a thing, even though the two couples were close friends, often socialized and traveled as a foursome.

Harding had been the keynote speaker and chairman of the 1916 Republican National Convention. Although he looked and sounded presidential, Harding’s entire senatorial career was undistinguished. As senator, Harding failed to address the hot issues of Prohibition and women’s suffrage. Having one of the poorest senate attendance records, Harding even missed the vote on the critical measure to send the 19th Amendment, enfranchising women, to the states for ratification. What was concealed from the public in Harding letters? In a letter sent to Carrie only fifteen days prior to his presidential nomination, Harding expressed his feelings for her in erotic verse:
“I love you back, I love your breast,
Darling to feel, where my face rests,
I love your skin, so soft and white
So dear to feel and sweet to bite,
I love your knees, their dimples kiss,
I love your ways of giving bliss,
I love you poise of perfect thighs,
When they hold me in paradise.”

Rated by most historians as our worst president, Harding, billed as “another Lincoln,” won the 1920 presidential election in a landside over highly qualified Ohio governor James M. Cox.

Sources: The New York Times Magazine, “The Letters That Warren G. Harding’s Family Didn’t Want You to See it,”: Huffpost, “President G. Harding’s Love Letter to Mistress Carrie Phillips are Nearly NSFW,”: The Washington Post, “President Harding’s steamy love letters with Carrie Phillips to go on display.”


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