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Kind but Final Words for President Harding

Published: August 14, 2015

Recent paternity tests have brought Warren G. Harding back into the news. Genetic testing has now proven that Nan Britton told the truth in 1927 when she claimed she and Harding had been lovers, and that Harding was the father of her child.

She had written a book about their affair because, she claimed, Harding had promised to provide support for their daughter. But then he died, suddenly, in 1923 without making any provisions for the child. So The President’s Daughter was published, prompting cries of outrage from Harding’s supporters.

The Post never mentioned the affair, of course. The editors were strong supporters of Warren G. Harding back in those days. Harding needed friends. His administration had been blackened by scandal. Corruption in the Veterans Bureau prompted its director to flee to Europe and its general counsel to kill himself. Shortly afterward, the private secretary of the Attorney General, who’d been involved in subverting Prohibition laws, also shot himself. Meanwhile, the investigation into the Teapot Dome Scandal threatened to implicate the president.

So it was with understandable pleasure that President Harding saw the Post article in the July 28, 1923, issue: “A Calm Review of a Calm Man.” As he rested in bed on August 2, recovering from illness and stress, he listened to his wife reading Samuel G. Blythe’s comforting words, “I think that as an American, as President, and as a human being, the Hon. Warren G. Harding hasn’t had and isn’t having fair treatment from all this gang of knockers, maligners, self-seeking politicians, disappointed applicants for his favor, theorists and fanatics and fools who want to reform the world in half an hour.”

Somewhere during the reading, Harding said, “That’s good! Go on — read some more.” They were the last words he ever spoke, for he suddenly died a few minutes later.

His death left many questions unanswered, such as his knowledge of the scandals that sent several members of his administration to jail. It also left the paternity of Nan Britton’s child in question. Until now.

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