9 Hotels Where Shocking Presidential Dramas Went Down

9 Hotels Where Shocking Presidential Dramas Went Down

Luxury with a side of scandal.

By Karen Gardiner

With the election just days away now, let's take a break from the dramas unfolding between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — and turn our attention toward presidential scandals of the past for a bit of nonpartisan throwback shock. How many of these do you remember?

1. Watergate Hotel, Washington, D.C.

The hotel whose very name is synonymous with scandal, the Watergate Hotel has just reopened after an extensive renovation. But it will forever be best remembered as the place where, in June 1972, five men, working on President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign, broke into the hotel in an attempt to steal classified documents from Democratic National Committee’s office within the complex and bug their telephones. It took two more years for Nixon's involvement to come to light but when it did — he was out.

2. The Mayflower, Washington, D.C

The Mayflower has seen its share of political scandals — this was where Eliot Spitzer met his comeuppance when a wiretap revealed his fondness for a high-class escort service. Perhaps the image that will be forever associated with the hotel, though, is the one in which President Bill Clinton is hugging a certain Monica Lewinsky in front of the property.

3. Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, Arlington

Of course the entire, sordid Clinton controversy would never have broken had Linda Tripp not decided to record private phone conversations with her friend Monica Lewinsky. Tripp was staying at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City when she recorded those calls and it was to the same hotel that FBI agents later took Lewinsky to be interrogated by six deputy IOC prosecutors. Tripp was there that day too and was spotted by Lewinsky. "Make her stay and watch," Lewinsky told the prosecutors, "I want that treacherous bitch to see what she has done to me." 

4. The Fairmont San Francisco

John F. Kennedy's (alleged) dalliances with women other than his wife are fairly well documented, but one wonders what might have happened had Jackie caught him at it in The Fairmont. Legend has it that while staying in the swanky Presidential Suite, JFK invited in a famous starlet via the library's secret doorway — which she had to quickly sneak out of when the couple heard Jackie was on her way.

5. Westin St. Francis, San Francisco

In 1916 the St. Francis' famed chef Victor Hirtzler cooked a benefit dinner for presidential hopeful Charles Evans Hughes. The benefit took place during a culinary workers union strike, but Hirtzler insisted it go ahead. When Hughes crossed the picket line to attend the dinner, the union turned against him causing him to lose California and, finally, the election, which was won by incumbent Woodrow Wilson. The St. Francis has seen a fair bit of action: in 1975 Sara Jean Moore tried to shoot President Gerald Ford — but missed.

6. Trump Hotel, Washington D.C

This year's Republican presidential hopeful had a few words for the U.S.' Mexican community while on the campaign trail. Those words did not sit well with the highly respected Spanish-American chef José Andres who was due to open a fine-dining restaurant in the soon-to-open Trump Washington, D.C. Andres killed the restaurant plan, and was joined by celebrity chef Geoff Zakarian who also withdrew plans for his own restaurant. Trump’s company sued those of the chefs for $10 million apiece; the chefs countersued

7. Washington Hilton, D.C.

The rather nondescript Washington Hilton would be best known as a massive convention hotel, were it not for the events of March 30, 1981. Having watched the movie Taxi Driver, and under the delusion that doing so may impress young star Jodie Foster, John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Hinckley shot Reagan in the chest but the President soon recovered — and grew more popular and, hence, powerful in the aftermath. White House Press Secretary John Brady, however, was left paralyzed. In the years after the shooting, Brady became a firm advocate for gun control (the Brady Bill is named after him) but sadly died 33 years later in what was ruled a direct result of the shooting. Arguments about gun control continue to this day.

8. Waldorf-Astoria, NYC

It's no longer a secret but back in the 1930s and '40s VIPs made use of a hidden platform, Track 61, to sneak into the Waldorf Astoria without prying eyes catching site of them. Franklin D. Roosevelt was particularly fond of using the secret track, some suggest because it enabled him to enter the hotel covertly and keep his disability (he was diagnosed with polio and paralyzed from the waist down) hidden from the public.

9. The Palace Hotel, San Francisco

President Warren G. Harding was in San Francisco to give a speech when he suddenly fell ill. The President was taken to a room at the Palace Hotel to be treated by doctors who found him to have pneumonia. Though he seemed to be on the road to recovery, he died on August 2, 1923.  His wife refused to allow an autopsy and doctors were not able to conclusively agree on the cause of death. Rumors persist, including speculation that his wife poisoned him after learning of his multiple infidelities.

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