Presidents’ Most Embarrassing Relatives

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ross-merrill - July 27, 2016

At the party conventions, we heard from the children of Trump and his third wife and the husband of Clinton (you may know him; he was president). People may have issues with each -- or both -- but none of them is a disaster. Former presidents and candidates have had some relatives that were embarrassing to them...and entertaining to us.

Billy Carter

Any discussion of disappointing relations has to start with Jimmy Carter’s younger brother. First, while his brother was president, Billy licensed his name to Billy Beer. He also urinated on an airport runway in full view of the press. That shows a certain good ol’ boy recklessness, maybe...but he also took several trips to Libya and eventually registered as a foreign agent of the Libyan government, receiving more than $200,000 as a “loan.” The Senate investigated him, and his brother had to put out a statement saying “Billy has had no influence on U.S. policy or actions concerning Libya in the past, and he will have no influence in the future.” Finally, his plugs for Billy Beer became less funny as his drinking problem emerged.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Maybe the first "bad girl" of Washington? She was 17 when her father Theodore became president. The press called her “Princess Alice,” but she was anything but a demure Victorian lady that her position required. She wore pants, played poker, and -- gasp! -- stayed out late without a chaperone. She also had some of the best quips ever, from “My specialty is detached malevolence” to “I have a simple philosophy: Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. Scratch where it itches.” She married a congressman who eventually became speaker of the House...but she had lots of affairs and her only child was allegedly fathered by a senator.

The Bush Twins

Everyone knows that George W. Bush struggled with alcohol; in the 70s, he was arrested for drunk driving. He gave up liquor for good in 1986. So he can't have been happy when, just four months into his presidency, his twin daughters Barbara and Jenna were cited for alcohol-related offenses at an Austin bar -- Jenna for attempting to buy alcohol with a fake ID and Barbara for “being a minor in possession of alcohol.” Just a few weeks earlier, Jenna had also been charged the possession. Secret Service agents said the girls often tried to ditch their security detail by leaving the White House without warning and running red lights once on the street.

Patti Davis

Reagan’s daughter clashed with on issues from abortion to gay rights to nuclear disarmament. Her outspoken activism became embarrassing to the White House. But Patti went even further by writing a novel, Home Front, that was a thinly veiled indictment not just of Reagan but the entire Republican Party of the 60s and 70s. After Reagan left office, she wrote an autobiography, The Way I See It, in which she recounts “her father's emotional abandonment of her, her mother's cruelty, and the family's bitter rivalries,” as her publisher put it. Two years later, she did something no presidential offspring has ever done: posing for Playboy.

Neil Bush

Not to pick on the Bush family (Hillary Clinton’s brothers are pretty inept as well), but Neil Bush’s escapades were crazy. You may not remember the Savings & Loan Scandal of the late 80s and early 90s, but it cost taxpayers billions of dollars (and we’re still paying for the bailout today). Instrumental in the collapse was Neil Bush, who was on the board of directors one of the larger S&L’s. Unfortunately, the late 80s and early 90s exactly span the presidency of his father, George H. W. Bush, so the president himself was linked to the crisis. After that, Neil got on the board of some Chinese corporations, in industries he knew nothing about, which looked like influence-peddling. But he wasn’t done. During his brother’s administration, his wife caught him sleeping with prostitutes while in Asia on his dubious business ventures. During the divorce proceeding, Sharon wanted samples of Neil's hair to test for cocaine use; he said she wanted it to cast a voodoo curse on him. If there’s one thing Trump has deprived us, it’s a Jeb Bush presidency with brother Neil providing comic relief.

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