DNA Tests Proved This 92-Year-Old Presidential Rumor

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DNA tests prove that former President Warren Harding fathered a child with his mistress.

The online genealogy research website Ancestry.com tested the son of Harding’s long-alleged daughter by his mistress as well as confirmed relatives of Harding’s and found that they matched.

The tests confirm a claim made by Nan Britton, who came forward after Harding’s death in 1923 to say that he had fathered her daughter, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing. Britton unsuccessfully sought financial support from Harding’s widow and even wrote a book called The President’s Daughter.

Though the claim got little support during Britton’s lifetime, historians had mostly accepted that it was true.

Last year, the Library of Congress released Harding’s love letters with another mistress, Carrie Phillips. That inadvertently spurred the DNA tests, as Harding’s grandnephew and grandniece, Peter and Abigail Harding, found similarities between those letters and Britton’s descriptions of Harding in her book.

“My father said this couldn’t have happened because President Harding had mumps as a kid and was infertile and the family really vilified Nan Britton,” Peter Harding told the New York Times. Abigail Harding added that there were now “too many nails in the coffin” and she was “completely convinced.”

It’s not the first time that science has proven a presidential rumor. In 1998, DNA tests showed that Thomas Jefferson fathered a son with a slave, Sally Hemings.


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Write to Aditya Agrawal at aditya.agrewal@time.com