In what The New York Times says "demonstrate[s] how the march of technology is increasingly rewriting the nation's history books," genetic testing has confirmed Warren G. Harding, the US' 29th president, fathered a daughter out of wedlock.
The results lay to rest questions about the veracity of claims made by Nan Britton that her daughter, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing's father was Harding. Testing conducted by AncestryDNA, a division of Ancestry.com, has determined that James Blaesing, a grandson of Nan Britton and the son of Elizabeth Ann, is the second cousin of Peter and Abigail Harding, the president's grandnephew and grandniece. That means Elizabeth Ann had to be Harding's daughter.
"We're looking at the genetic scene to see if Warren Harding and Nan Britton had a baby together and all these signs are pointing to yes," Stephen Baloglu at Ancestry tells the Times. "The technology that we're using is at a level of specificity that there's no need to do more DNA testing. This is the definitive answer."
The paper writes that the Harding-Britton affair "was the sensation of its age, a product of the jazz-playing, gin-soaked Roaring Twenties and a pivotal moment in the evolution of the modern White House." The two originally met after Britton sought his help finding a job, and for more than six years, they carried out clandestine trysts, resulting in the birth of Elizabeth Ann in October 1919.
After Harding died in office in 1923, Britton was crushed. Harding left no plans to care financially for her or their daughter, and hard-pressed for cash, Britton wrote "The President's Daughter" in 1927 describing their steamy relationship with salacious and tantalizing details. According to one claim by Britton, she and Harding had sex in a White House closet while Secret Service agents shooed away anyone who might have walked in on them.
The public's reaction to the book was harsh. Britton was called a "degenerate" and a "pervert" who was only interested in money. Harding's relatives also maintained that Harding suffered from mumps as a child and was infertile, so he could not have fathered Elizabeth Ann.
Peter and Abigail Harding, who along with James Blaesing, chose to undergo DNA testing to solve the mystery, have accepted the findings, but other Harding relatives remain skeptical.
"I'm not questioning the accuracy of anybody's tests or anything," Harding grandnephew Richard Harding tells the Times. "But it's still in my mind still to be proven."