You Won’t Believe All of the Bizarre Crimes Committed at the White House

Put aside all the White House scandals during Donald Trump’s first year as president in 2017. Forget for a minute that Trump profiting off his presidency is unethical, if not illegal. And ignore all the presidents who owned slaves at the White House before slavery was illegal. American history is littered with horrendous and bizarre crimes committed at the White House, and unethical behavior is the least of our worries. Let’s discuss some of the awful, shocking, and weird things that have happened at the most famous house in the country.

We’ll touch on the biggest presidential scandal ever, then discuss a rogue Army pilot (page 4), a bit of vandalism (page 8), a famous entertainer behaving as expected (page 9), and some of the other strange crimes committed at the White House.

1. Watergate

Richard Nixon during Watergate

It was one of the most infamous crimes.  | Wikimedia Commons

Year: 1972

OK, you got us on a technicality. The Watergate Hotel definitely is *not* the White House. But then-president Richard Nixon *was* directly tied to the break-in and the ensuing scandal, and we all know how that ended. In a strange twist, we’ll meet Nixon again in a minute thanks to another bizarre White House crime.

Next: Two men, one woman, and an ugly outcome.

2. The Philip Barton Key murder

Phillip Barton Key

It’s close enough to count. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

Year: 1859

Does the name Key ring a bell? If not, let’s do a quick refresher. Francis Scott Key penned “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Phillip Barton Key was his son. A widower, he was also a serial adulterer who fooled around with some of Washington D.C.’s lonely housewives, including the wife of his friend, Congressman Daniel Sickles.

As you can imagine, Sickles didn’t care for Key getting acquainted with his wife. In a Feb. 27, 1859, encounter, Sickles shot and killed Key in Lafayette Square, just steps from the White House. It wasn’t one of the crimes committed at the White House, but we think its close enough to count.

Next: This revelation would have been scandalous in the day.

3. James Buchanan’s sexual orientation

James Buchanan portrait

James Buchanan may have been the first gay president. | The White House Historical Association

Year: 1857

In 21st century America, homosexuality is 100% legal and very few people bat an eyelash at an LGBTQ person. In the 19th century, however, things worked a lot differently and homosexuality was illegal. James Buchanan can’t shake being one of the most-hated American presidents, because of his poor leadership leading up to The Civil War, but likely being the first gay president makes his tenure noteworthy.

Next: Another bizarre crime associated with the Nixon White House.

4. Helicopter thievery

US Army helicopter

He failed as a pilot but was a pretty successful thief. | U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons

Year: 1974

Robert Preston was a failed Army helicopter pilot, but we’re guessing he fooled the authorities on Feb. 17, 1974. That’s the day he stole a helicopter from Fort George Meade in Maryland and eventually landed on the White House lawn.

In between take off and landing, he almost clipped a police car, passed by the Washington Monument a few times, and somehow landed safely while dodging gunfire. Pretty impressive for a guy deemed unfit to fly, and truly one of the most bizarre crimes committed at the White House.

Next: White House staffers having too good of a time.

5. Drug use during the Carter administration


Apparently cocaine was a big part of the Carter administration. | madsci/iStock/Getty Images

Year: 1977

Apparently, Billy Beer and the Iran hostage crisis aren’t the only blemishes on the Carter administration’s resume. As Ronald Kessler writes in “Inside the White House,” Dr. Peter Bourne, Carter’s principle drug advisor, notes that marijuana and cocaine were frequently used by White House staffers. In the grand scheme of things using hard drugs isn’t bizarre, but it is illegal and makes for one of the most severe crimes committed at the White House.

Next: Is this why Carter didn’t win a second term?

6. Debategate

immy Carter and Ronald Reagan debate each other

The debate wasn’t his biggest problem. | Liaison/Getty Images

Year: 1980

Less than 10 years after Watergate, another ‘gate’ scandal happened on the 1980 campaign trail. George Will says it’s not true, but Jimmy Carter accused him of stealing his debate notes from the White House and passing them off to Ronald Reagan ahead of their lone debate before the election. Carter’s presidency was less than stellar, which is probably why he lost the election. But stealing is a crime, and if it happened it’s one of the weirdest crimes committed at the White House.

Next: Sex and drugs and … politics?

7. Prostitution and drugs, Reagan, and Bush

White House

Those are some serious accusations. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Years: 1981-89

There is a lot of speculation surrounding Craig J. Spence, but if even some of it is true it makes for some of the most serious crimes committed at the White House. Spence allegedly arranged a White House tour with some male prostitutes in July of 1988, during the late stages of Ronald Reagan’s administration.

That’s definitely shady, and we haven’t even mentioned clandestine meetings with Secret Service agents and sex and drugs parties Spence hosted for Washington’s elite, according to the Washington Post. Spence had ties with White House staffers until he died in November of 1989.

Next: Making it hard to _rite a memo.

8. Vandal scandal

U.S.President Bill Clinton in Oval Office

It was more of a prank than anything. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Year: 2001

Outgoing staffers from Bill Clinton’s White House made life tough for the incoming George W. Bush administration. Take removing all the Ws from the keyboards, for instance. That makes it’s pretty hard to write “From the White House office of President George W. Bush,” doesn’t it? In the end, the scandal and the damage caused turned out not to be as bad as it looked. We’ll still chalk this up in the ‘crimes committed at the White House’ column, though it’s probably more of a misdemeanor than a serious felony.

Next: We’d expect nothing less.

9. Snoop Dogg does what Snoop Dogg does

He did what Snoop Dog does. | Christopher Polk/Getty Images for DirecTV

Year: 2013

Washington, D.C., has some of the loosest marijuana laws in the country these days, but that wasn’t the case in 2013 when Snoop Dogg toked on a joint at the White House. When using the bathroom, he claims he lit up and did what we expect Snoop Dogg to do. We find it hard to believe he got drugs past security and into the building, but if he did this goes down as one of the most expected crimes committed at the White House.

Next: And the sketchy things that didn’t make the cut…

10. The White House crimes we left out

Lt. Col. Oliver North (L), accompanied by his lawyer

The Iran-Contra affair was pretty scandalous. | Chris Wilkins/AFP/Getty Images

You probably noticed a few scandals didn’t make the cut. That’s because there’s probably not enough internet bandwidth to cover all the crimes committed at the White House. These are some of the shocking political scandals we had to leave out:

  • The Pentagon papers in 1971, when we found out four presidents lied about the military being in Vietnam.
  • Russian interference during the 2016 presidential race.
  • Hillary Clinton’s email snafu in 2015.
  • The Iran-Contra affair during Reagan’s tenure.
  • The failed Bay of Pigs invasion, a giant blemish on John F. Kennedy’s presidential tenure.

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