From Hamilton to Beto, Politicians Who Shared a Little More Than We Wanted to Know

A brief (and boxers) history of political oversharing.

U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson displays the incision from his gall bladder surgery and kidney stone removal at a news conference at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington Oct. 20, 1965.

President Lyndon Johnson displays the incision from his gallbladder surgery in October 1965.AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Before Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her Instant Pot became social media sensations, a few American politicians had dared to share personal tidbits they hoped might endear them to the public. An incomplete history of political oversharing:

1797: Responding to rumors of corruption, ex-Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton publishes a tell-all pamphlet detailing his “amorous connection” with another man’s wife.

An artist’s interpretation of Alexander Hamilton getting ready to dish

Buyenlarge/Getty Images

1906: Secretary of War William Taft announces that he wants to get his weight down to 250 pounds. After three months of dieting, he reports losing 20 pounds, thanks to low-fat fare and “some exercises that make me look ridiculous.”

1942: While running for governor of California, Earl Warren grudgingly agrees to try to soften his image by publishing a photo of his family. He wins but fires his political consultants.

1952: In response to allegations of political payoffs, VP candidate Richard Nixon gives a lengthy speech about his finances and campaign gifts he’s received—including his family’s dog, Checkers.

Richard Nixon with his cocker spaniel, Checkers, in 1952.

Bettmann/Getty Images

1965: Following gallbladder surgery, President Lyndon Johnson lifts his shirt to show off his 12-inch-long scar.

1976: Presidential hopeful Jimmy Carter confesses to Playboy, “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”

1994: Asked about his underwear preference by a 17-year-old girl at an MTV forum, President Bill Clinton replies, “Usually briefs.”

2000: Onstage at the Democratic National Convention, Al and Tipper Gore break with tradition by displaying unbridled marital affection with, as the New York Times put it, “a full-mouthed kiss that lasted a [sic] exceptionally long time”—three seconds.

Al and Tipper Gore kiss at the the Democratic National Convention in August 2000.

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

2016: During a Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump re­assures America that his penis is not unusually small: “I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

2017: Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, a candidate for governor, makes an unprompted disclosure on Facebook: “In the last fifty years I was sexually intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females.”

2018: Responding to Trump’s claim that she lied about her ancestry, Sen. Elizabeth Warren reveals the results of a DNA test, which suggests she had a Native American ancestor at least six generations ago.

2019: While interviewing his dental hygienist on Instagram, Beto O’Rourke shares his teeth cleaning with the world.

Donald Trump in 2016: “He referred to my hands—if they’re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there’s no problem.”

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend