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Books

A new book by Jim Morris and Gregg Stebben catalogues the sexual peccadilloes of occupants of the White House.

Should a catalogue of presidents' sexual escapades comfort Clinton?

Web posted on: Wednesday, August 20, 1998 10:50:30 EDT
From Correspondent Jill Brooke

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Their timing in the market is certainly convenient for profit-taking from President Clinton's problems, but the authors of "White House Confidential" contend their book actually could make the president feel better.

Still, an interviewer might wonder about the pure compassion and good will of authors Jim Morris and Gregg Stebben, especially since Morris also does impressions of presidents in the style of a late-night comic.

Says Morris, playing Clinton: "If you look back, you'll see that we have a long history of, shall we say, flawed characters who have served in this office."

"White House Confidential" catalogues the sexual peccadilloes of the United States' presidents, sourcing the stories from previously reported material. Some of better-known White House scandals loom larger that Clinton's debacle with Monica Lewinsky in seriousness if not in embarrassing public detail.

Here are a few included in the book:

  • "You only have to look to Thomas Jefferson, who had a 38-year affair with a 17-year-old girl when they first started, who was his slave," said Stebben, "and FDR, who actually lived in the White House with his girlfriend as well as his wife."

  • The Republican Party, fearing a scandal, paid one of Warren Harding's mistresses and her husband "$25,000 and $2,000 a month in 1920 dollars" to get them out of town, Stebben said.

  • Grover Cleveland was accused of fathering an illegitimate child while in office. "It was a huge story ... every bit as big a story as the Monica Lewinsky story today," Stebben said. "When Grover Cleveland's aides took him aside and said, 'Boss, what do you want us to about this,' he looked them straight in the eye and he said, 'Tell the truth.'" Acknowledging the child did not seem to affect Cleveland's political career.

    Loyal, loving husbands also are credited by Morris and Stebben, who include in their list Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson, Gerald Ford and Teddy Roosevelt. But even the loyal can take their lumps.

    "Ronald Reagan unquestionably loved his wife, Nancy," Stebben said. But Morris responded with a Reagan impersonation.

    Ronald Reagan impersonation

    Audio clip: 160K wav

    That sarcasm is mild compared to Morris' treatment of Nixon, who the authors say may have had an affair with a cocktail waitress. "Well, I can't even imagine him with his own wife, let alone someone else," Morris said. Then he switched to a Nixon impersonation: "I'm going to now caress your little appendages."

    JFK and LBJ are served up bearing the reputations that are common knowledge now, but such presidential sexual excapades were not reported by the media at the time.

    Both men trusted the press not to report on their affairs, and Johnson even told the assembled media: "I may go into a strange bedroom every now and then that I don't want you to write about, but otherwise, you can write everything."

    Morris and Stebben have written every titillating thing about the sex lives of presidents that they could find. Stebben, like an honorable public servant, says "White House Confidential" is an opportunity for perspective.

    "This doesn't excuse bad behavior, but it's good for the people to realize it's not the first time it's happened," he said.


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