‘Ma! Ma! Where’s my Pa?’
Presidential campaign mudslinging took on a decidedly salacious tone in 1884 when New York Governor Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, faced Republican U.S. Senator James Blaine.
Even before he was nominated, stories of bachelor Cleveland’s sexual escapades swirled around the country. Only one of the stories was confirmed, but it was a doozy – at least by the standards of the day.
Rather than deny the incident, Cleveland’s campaign admitted the candidate and Maria Halpin were “illicitly acquainted” in 1874. The campaign noted that Cleveland was unmarried and contended Halpin, a 38-year-old widow, was nothing but a harlot. She wound up pregnant after their encounter. A number of Cleveland’s prominent married friends had bedded down Halpin as did Cleveland, the campaign claimed. To protect his friends’ reputations, Cleveland said he was the father and helped Halpin place the child with a decent family.