ABC News offered yesterday a risible lineup of two-timing politicians that omitted Bill Clinton, the philandering 42nd president, but included Thomas Jefferson, about whom the evidence of sexual dalliance is thin at best.
ABC’s roster of “the top eight politicians who led double lives” was posted online and promised “a look at some … tawdry affairs and public scandals” — and how the politicians implicated “weathered the storm.”
In addition to Jefferson, ABC included Grover Cleveland, the U.S. president in the 1880s and 1890s who fathered a child out of wedlock, and Eliot Spitzer, who as governor of New York consorted with a high-priced call girl.
Given that the likes of Fossella made the list, it’s inexplicable that Clinton was omitted.
Clinton’s tawdry sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, began in mid-November 1995 and continued intermittently until March 1997.
Disclosures of the Clinton-Lewinsky dalliance, and falsehoods he told under oath about the affair, nearly destroyed Clinton’s presidency.
He was impeached in December 1998 on two counts — lying under oath and obstructing justice to cover up the affair — but acquitted by the U.S. Senate in February 1999 and served out the 23 months remaining in his term.
Separately, a federal judge found Clinton in contempt of court for having lied under oath about the Lewinsky affair. Clinton was barred from practicing law for five years and ordered to pay nearly $90,000 to the lawyers of Paula Jones, who had accused him of sexual harassment while he was governor of Arkansas.
Clinton was the second U.S. president impeached in office. The other was Andrew Johnson, in 1868.
ABC’s including Jefferson in its “double lives” roster was little short of baffling: Indeed, its writeup about Jefferson’s purported sexual liaison with a slave-mistress named Sally Hemings offered no small amount of exculpatory evidence.
In fact, the writeup referred to “the myth of Jefferson’s double life” and noted:
“To this day, Jefferson’s paternity of any of her children has not been established with any absolute certainty.”
ABC also pointed out that a recent and detailed study about the purported Jefferson-Hemings affair which “did not show much support for the accusations” of a sexual liaison.
That study, a 400-page work titled The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy: Report of the Scholars Commission, was compiled by a commission of Jefferson scholars charged with puncturing the myriad misunderstandings about the third president and a slave whom he rarely mentioned in his letters.
Among the misunderstandings was the DNA testing released in 1998 — about the time Clinton was facing impeachment charges — confirmed that Jefferson fathered children by Hemings.
“While the tests were professionally done by distinguished experts,” the scholars commission pointed out, “they were never designed to prove, and in fact could not have proven, that Thomas Jefferson was the father of any of Sally Hemings’ children.
“The tests merely establish a strong probability that Sally Hemings’ youngest son, Eston, was fathered by one of the more than two dozen Jefferson men in Virginia at the time ….”
One of the more than two dozen Jefferson men.
Yet, news media reports at the time characterized the DNA tests as offering “compelling evidence” of a sexual relationship between Jefferson and Hemings.
The scholars commission — a panel of 13 experts organized by the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society — said that circumstantial evidence points more powerfully to Jefferson’s younger brother, Randolph (or his sons), in the paternity question.
Randolph Jefferson, the book says, was known to have socialized with the slaves at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home near Charlottesville, VA.
Randolph Jefferson was a dozen years younger than the president, and the available record offers no evidence that Thomas Jefferson “enjoyed socializing at night with Monticello slaves,” the book points out.
Eston Hemings’ was conceived around August 1807, when Thomas Jefferson was 64 and in declining health — factors that further diminish the likelihood of his paternity.
Also making ABC’s roster of politicians who led “double lives” were Mark Sanford, a former governor of South Carolina; John Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina; Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former governor of California, and Anthony Wiener, a former congressman from New York City.
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