The United States’ history (and present!) is rife with the most polarizing, divisive, and corrupt presidents, leading to the term “dirty politics.”
The political controversies spiral from sex scandals to military terrorism, election rigging, pro-slavery sentiments — and so much more. Let us look at who were the most controversial presidents in America.
1829 to 1837
Jackson’s inauguration was marked by a party during which the guests trashed the White House, even snipping bits of curtains to keep as souvenirs, cementing all the concerns critics had about the 7th president of the United States.
The president was considered to be an undisciplined, uncultured, and tyrannical demagogue who showed no respect for the office he held or the Constitution. Although he remained president for two consecutive terms, Andrew Jackson is most infamously remembered for the scandalous “Petticoat Affair.”
After Jackson’s Secretary of War John Henry Eaton married the recently widowed Margaret Timberlake, rumors abound that the two were having an illicit affair prior to Timberlake’s husband’s death, which led to his suicide. Due to these rumors, Jackson fired most of his cabinet.
In addition, Jackson’s presidency was also marked by the Nullification Crisis that resulted from Jackson’s threat that he would use military force Against South Carolina if they refused to pay the high taxes enforced by the government.
Richard M Nixon
1969 to 1974
Richard Nixon was sworn in as the 37th US president largely in part because he pledged to end the notorious Vietnam War. However, instead of fulfilling his promise to the people, he broadened the conflict to include Laos and Cambodia as well, leading to renewed protests from human rights advocates.
However, this isn’t the only place where Nixon was in breach of public trust. The most infamous controversy surrounding Nixon is the Watergate scandal that involved multiple cases of abuse of power by his administration, including wiretapping the Democratic Party’s headquarters and kidnapping of Martha Mitchell, the wife of his Attorney General.
As a result, the president received the dubious honor of being the first POTUS to resign from the office of the US presidency and thoroughly deserves his place on this list of the most controversial presidents in America.
1981 to 1989
Ronald Reagan’s presidency was arguably the most corrupt presidency of all time that witnessed the investigation, indictment, and conviction of 138 of his officials, all of which had their own huge scandals.
However, the greatest controversy during his time was the Iran-Contra affair that involved the illegal sales of arms to Iran and using the proceeds to fund the right-wing rebel group Contra in South America. The president denied any involvement in the affair even though it was happening right under his nose.
A few other scandals that marked Reagan’s presidency was the president’s support for the apartheid in South Africa, the CIA’s involvement in Contra’s cocaine-trafficking operations, the Sewergate scandal, the creation of “Islamic terrorism.”
George H.W. Bush
1989 to 1993
George H.W. Bush’s political campaign itself was marked by racism. During his tenure as president, he escalated the racist war on drugs against people of color by framing a drug dealer for pushing cocaine in areas near the White House.
He is also notorious for his warmongering efforts including creating false claims to justify the bombing of Iraq. Under his governance, the US dropped 88,500 tons of bombs in the country and Iraq-occupied Kuwait, which resulted in thousands of dead civilians and destruction of Iraqi infrastructure include water-treatment, food-processing, and electricity generation facilities.
In addition, he has been accused of groping by a myriad of women, including a 16-year-old girl.
All of these trends were carried forward by his son.
1993 to 2001
The former governor of Arkansas won theElectoral College votes againstGeorge H. W. Bush, but even the election results were marked by polarization since more combined votes were cast for Bush and another candidate, Ross Perot.
During his presidency, Bill Clinton became the target of multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations, which led to the uncovering of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a young White House intern. Years later, even more women would come forward to accuse the former president of sexual assault.
Other controversies involving Clinton included the 1996 US campaign finance controversy, Troopergate scandal, Travelgate scandal, Chinagate scandal, Vince Foster Controversy, Whitewater scandal, and more.
In 1998, the president was impeached on the grounds of obstruction of justice and perjury but was later acquitted by the Senate.
George W Bush
2001 to 2009
When it comes to George W. Bush, the apple did not fall far from the tree.
Like his father, George W Bush ventures into the Middle East war which left a trail of chaos and destruction in the entire region. Bush justified the war as “preemptive measures” but it was declared illegal by the United Nation’s Security Council.
Aside from promulgating an unsanctioned war, the president was also notorious for being an alcoholic as well as indulging in recreational drugs. In addition, he was also accused of assaulting several women.
As one of the most corrupt and immoral presidents in the history of the United States, Bush’s scandals included the torture of the Abu Ghraib prisoners, his various extramarital affairs —most notably with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice —, his ineffectual response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the dismissal of the State Attorneys and his administration’s policy that lead to the 2008 Market Crash.
How can you have a post titled “Who were the most controversial presidents in America” and not include this guy?
Donald Trump will forever be remembered as being one of the most polarizing — if not the polarizing —president of the United States. The president’s regime was marked by fractious and divisive polices including the travel ban, family separation, racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic rhetoric — despite his daughter and son-in-law being Jewish — and building of the wall.
Like Clinton, he won the Electoral College votes, but lost the popularity vote. In wake of his inauguration, millions of protesters took to the street for the Women’s March to protest against the president’s misogynistic rhetoric and his alleged sexual assault of dozens of women.
It was also alleged that Trump had links with the Russian government which was alleged to have interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of the 45th president. In December 2019, the House voted to impeach Trump on grounds of abuse of power and obstructing the Congress investigation over his dealing with Ukraine to find dirt on former vice president, Joe Biden. However, two months later, the Senate acquitted him.
By talking about scandals, wars, and cover ups, this blog posts on “who were the most controversial presidents in America” really highlights the dodgy past of the world’s leading superpower. This list covers only a few former presidents, but all 45 former presidents have had their terms rocked by some controversy or another. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s no hope going forward. Now that Joe Biden has been sworn into the Oval Office, let us hope for a better, less controversial POTUS. Fingers crossed!