New tests initiated by relatives of Warren G. Harding and self-described mistress Nan Britton indicate a close genetic link

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
Updated August 13, 2015 05:25 PM
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty

Nearly a century after a presidential infidelity scandal titillated the nation comes proof that the woman who publicly claimed to have given birth to former President Warren G. Harding’s love child was seemingly telling the truth all along.

Genealogists say newly released genetic testing proves that Harding indeed fathered a child with self-identified mistress Nan Britton.

“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, an executive at, which conducted the testing through its AncestryDNA division, told The New York 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.”

Long before the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair rocked the nation, Britton scandalized the country when she released a tell-all book titled The President’s Daughter, which detailed her passionate affair with the commander-in-chief – including secret trysts in a West Wing closet – and the daughter they allegedly conceived together, Elizabeth Blaesing.

According to the Times, Britton wrote the book after Harding died in office in 1923 without designating resources to aid the girl Britton claimed the president privately acknowledged and supported.

Britton’s claims created decades-long tensions between the families, with some of Harding’s relatives claiming there was no way the politician long associated with the Teapot Dome scandal could have fathered a child – because he was sterile.

“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, the president’s grandnephew, told the Times.

Peter Harding, a 72-year-old physician in Big Sur, California, was one of the relatives who initiated the DNA testing after finding a copy of Britton’s book and determining that the Harding she depicted was similar to the man who came through in the steamy letters to another mistress, Carrie Phillips, which were released last year by the Library of Congress.

“It’s sort of Shakespearean and operatic,” he explained. “This story hangs over the whole presidential history because it was an unsolved mystery.”

To initiate the test, Peter Harding and his cousin Abigail Harding reached out to James Blaesing, Nan Britton’s grandson and Elizabeth Blaesing’s son, who was eager to participate.

“I wanted to prove who she was and prove everyone wrong,” Blaesing, a 65-year-old construction worker in Portland, Oregon, told the Times. “I went through this growing up in school. They belittled him and her.”

Despite the seeming certainty of the test results, not all members of the Harding family are convinced.

“I’m not questioning the accuracy of anybody’s tests or anything,” Dr. Richard Harding, 69, another grandnephew and a child psychiatrist in Columbia, South Carolina, told the Times. “But it’s still in my mind still to be proven.”

However, Richard Harding said he’s keeping an open mind – and will graciously accept the Blaesings into the family once he feels it’s sufficiently proved they are indeed related.

“I hope they’ll find their new place in history is meaningful and productive for them,” he said.