Ex-President Warren Harding’s Love Child Confirmed Through DNA Testing – ABC News
After nearly 100 years of rumors and historical speculation, DNA testing has confirmed that President Warren Harding had a child out of wedlock – his only biological child – with mistress Nan Britton.
Britton first came forward publically with the claim that her daughter, Elizabeth Ann, was Harding’s daughter in a 1927 autobiography “The President’s Daughter.” In her account, Britton detailed a steamy six-year-long affair with the 29th president, including one encounter in a White House closet, before his untimely death in 1923.
At the time of its publishing, the book was met with public ridicule and widely discounted as the stuff of pornographic fiction. Britton was labeled a “sex pervert” and “degenerate,” and a book was even written to counter her claims about Harding, who was married to Florence Mabel Harding.
Harding historian James Robenalt compares Britton to the Monica Lewinsky of her time.
“Nan Britton was someone who had to live through a lot of attacks … and I think her story was a lot like Monica Lewinsky because there was a real shaming process,” Robenalt said. “She was just picking up for her daughter, who we now know was Harding’s daughter, and she was just viciously attacked for it.”
But recent DNA testing by Ancestry.com has proven that James Blaesing, the son of Harding’s biological daughter Elizabeth Ann, is the second cousin the president’s grandnephew Peter Harding and his grandniece Abigail Harding.
The search to prove Britton’s story was first prompted in 2009 after Robenalt published a book, “The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage during the Great War.” The book detailed a long-running affair between Harding had with another mistress Carrie Phillips, following the discovery of a trove of love letters written by the president to Phillips.
After the book’s publishing, Harding’s grand-nephew Peter Harding reached out to Robenalt, recognizing similarities between the love letters Harding sent to Phillips and those that Britton claimed in her book the president had sent to her. But, unlike Phillips, Britton had no documented proof of the letters Harding wrote her, having destroyed them at his request.
It wasn’t until recently, however, that Ancestry.com developed biological testing that was precise enough to accurately connect Harding’s grandnephew to Elizabeth Britton’s grandson.
The importance of the discovery, Robenalt believes, is twofold.
“For one, this family can be united,” Robenalt said. “There are literally grandsons of Harding who don’t know their cousins.”
And, secondly, he hopes the discovery will begin to clear the air around Harding’s scandalized reputation in history.
“This book really ruined Warren Harding’s reputation, and as a result the important lessons of his presidency have been lost,” Robenalt said, who points out that Harding argued for non-interventionist policies before World War I that continue to be relevant following the lessons of the war in Iraq.
“It’s not our job to go in and change other forms of government into a democracy, and he was right,” Robenalt said.
“He’s seen as scandal-ridden and someone without any substance,” he added, “and this story will hopefully ‘put to bed’ all this stuff and the focus on who he was a president.”