DNA Tells Tale of a President's Scandalous Affair

Warren Harding did father Nan Britton's child: AncestryDNA
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2015 9:19 AM CDT
DNA Tells Tale of a President's Scandalous Affair
America's 29th president, Warren G. Harding.   (Harris & Ewing/Wikimedia)

Her 1927 tell-all book describing an affair with America's 29th president—and claiming him as the father of her child—propelled Nan Britton to the title of Warren G. Harding's most famous mistress. But as Britton only revealed the relationship after Harding's death and said she'd destroyed their correspondence according to his wishes, the love affair has remained only rumor for almost a century. Now, genealogists say rumor has finally been cemented into truth: President Harding was the father of Britton's daughter, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing, reports the New York Times. The truth unraveled when Harding's grandnephew and grandniece, Peter and Abigail Harding, contacted Blaesing's son, James. They agreed to DNA testing through AncestryDNA, which returned what an executive calls a "definitive answer": James Blaesing was the Hardings' second cousin, meaning his mother must have been the president's child.

"It's sort of Shakespearean and operatic," says Peter Harding. "This story hangs over the whole presidential history because it was an unsolved mystery." But not all of Harding's descendants are convinced by the new evidence. A grandnephew tells the Times "it's still in my mind still to be proven"; Peter Harding notes his own father maintained the relationship was a lie as family members believed President Harding was sterile. James Blaesing, who notes people broke into his home as child looking for evidence to disprove the affair rumor, says the DNA tests finally verify his grandmother's claims. "I wanted to prove who she was and prove everyone wrong," he says, adding, "She loved (Harding) until the day she died." Writing at the Washington Post, researcher James Robenalt says Harding's reputation as a womanizer sadly overpowers his accomplishments as president, including overseeing the first arms limitation treaty. (Click for more on Harding's many other mistresses.)

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