Political Affairs

A leading watchdog calls for the Senate Ethics Committee to look into multiple mysterious payments made to the senator's mistress and her family. Max Blumenthal reports.

AP Photo; Hulton Archive / Getty Images

AP Photo; Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Judith Campbell Exner, John F. Kennedy

JFK’s rumored mistress was the source of most of the chatter surrounding their relationship. Although she maintained that they had a two-year affair that began after Frank Sinatra set up a quick meeting in Las Vegas, many of Kennedy’s former aides denied the duo was involved at all. Exner also claimed she had a relationship with famed mobster Sam Giancana.

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Campaign Staffer, John Ensign

The rising GOP political star admitted Tuesday he had an affair while separated from his wife in 2007. The Nevada Republican Senator said he is "truly sorry" for having an affair with a campaign staffer, whose husband was also an employee. But the affair isn't the juiciest part of the story--a Nevada source says Ensign met with the husband, and blackmail is rumored to be involved with his decision to come clean.

Charlie Neibergall / AP Photo; Newscom

Rielle Hunter, John Edwards

Reports of an affair between the North Carolina senator and his campaign worker were largely ignored during his prospective presidential run in October 2007. Edwards came (partially) clean, however, in August 2008, and admitted his affair with Hunter, whom he met when she filmed a series of behind-the-scenes videos for his campaign. Edwards denies he is the father of Hunter’s child and rumors are swirling that she may push for a paternity test after his wife Elizabeth’s highly publicized media tour for her new book Resilience. Recently, a federal probe began into the use of money from his political action committee toward Hunter and her company. “I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly,” responded Edwards.

Russell C. Turiak, Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

Callista Bisek, Newt Gingrich

The former Speaker of the House was married to his second wife, Marianne Ginther, when he began a six-year affair with congressional aide Callista Bisek. Gingrich was leading the right's opposition to Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs at the same time he was having one of his own. After an ugly divorce in 2000, he quickly married 34-year-old Bisek (Gingrich was 57).

AP Photos

Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones, Bill Clinton

Clinton will forever be linked to presidential sex scandals. He claimed his 12-year affair with Flowers, a fledgling actress and singer, occurred before his marriage to Hillary Clinton. And Jones, who was an Arkansas state clerk, sued Clinton for sexual harassment in 1994. His deposition for the case contained his “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” claim about intern Monica Lewinsky, and later led to his impeachment.

Lucy Mercer, Franklin Delano Roosevelt

It’s now widely acknowledged that Roosevelt was having an affair with Mercer, who was hired by Eleanor Roosevelt as a secretary, around 1914. Four years later, Roosevelt’s wife discovered love letters written from the president to her assistant. Nearly 40 years later, a former Roosevelt aide penned a book titled The Time Between the Wars, in which he dished about the relationship. Mercer later married, but was visiting with the president the day he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died.

National Enquirer / Getty Images

Donna Rice, Gary Hart

In the biggest flameout preceding a likely presidential nomination, the Colorado senator was infamously photographed with 29-year-old model Donna Rice sitting on his lap. The best (or worst) detail: once-popular Hart, who dared the media to “follow him around,” was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of the yacht “Monkey Business.” After her old modeling photos were splashed around the news, Rice retreated from the public eye but has since waged a campaign to protect children from pornography.

AP Photo

Maria Halpin, Grover Cleveland

The 24th president quickly admitted to an affair with Maria Crofts Halpin, a widow whose illegitimate child he supported even though he was unsure if he was the father. The admission of his bachelorhood days didn’t derail his election, despite the slogan “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?” shouted from headlines.

AP Photos

Kay Summersby, Dwight D Eisenhower

Kay Summersby was a captain in the U.S. Women’s Army Corps and later the driver and secretary for the 34th president. There was much gossip about a possible affair between the two, and although long denied by Eisenhower, she used a ghostwriter to publish an autobiography titled Past Forgetting: My Love Affair With Dwight D. Eisenhower after his death.

AP Photo

Maria Reynolds, Alexander Hamilton

Here’s one from the history books: A young Maria Reynolds bilked Founding Father Alexander Hamilton out of nearly $1,000 by claiming she and her daughter needed help, which then spurred the married man to begin a three-year affair. After he was blackmailed by James Reynolds (Maria’s husband, who knew of—and supported—their affair) Hamilton admitted his indiscretions. A presidential run was not to be.

AP Photo

Madeleine Brown, Lyndon B. Johnson

Brown was the alleged mistress of the 36th president for over 20 years. Even more sensational than the affair, however, were her claims that Johnson told her he was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy. She also claimed Johnson fathered her child, Steven Mark Brown, who later died and would have been his only son.

AP Photo

Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson

Although Thomas Jefferson never acknowledged the public speculation about an affair with Sally Hemings, one of the slaves on his plantation, the rumors that the third president fathered her four children were widely believed. He later freed all of them from his Monticello home. Hemings was the daughter of Jefferson’s father-in-law, who had an affair with her mother while she was also a slave.