Historical Facts and Rumors About America's Presidents

From fake quotes to rumors about mental fitness and even photos of presidents cozying up to their political foes, we've got it all.

Published Feb. 28, 2024

 (Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images; Bettman/Bettman/Getty Images)
Image Via Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images; Bettman/Bettman/Getty Images

Get ready to dive into the juiciest presidential tidbits ever unearthed! We're not just talking about wooden teeth and cherry trees. No, sir! We're delving deep into the rabbit hole of presidential uh-ohs, gaffes and downright bizarre tales that have popped up over the years.

From fake quotes to rumors about mental fitness and even photos of presidents cozying up to their political foes, we've got it all.

But wait, there's more! Ever wondered about presidential pets? Or perhaps you're curious about their habits? Well, buckle up, because we've got trivia that will make you see America's leaders in a new light.

So, without further ado, here are some mind-blowing facts and political folklore straight from the archives of history that will leave you gasping for more!

Did John F. Kennedy Donate His Entire Presidential Salary to Charity?

Fact Check: True

It's actually true that President John F. Kennedy donated his presidential salary to charity. It was certainly a noble move. More importantly, this act wasn't a one-time deal; throughout his political career, he consistently gave back. In 1962, United Press International claimed he donated nearly $500,000 during his career.

Did President Lyndon B. Johnson Applaud the Smothers Brothers for Mocking Him?

Fact Check: True

Travel back to the late 1960s, when President Lyndon B. Johnson penned a heartfelt letter to the Smothers Brothers, thanking the music and comedy duo for their satirical jabs rather than firing off angry missives. Johnson acknowledged the importance of laughter, even at his own expense, saying:

"It is part of the price of leadership of this great and free nation to be the target of clever satirists. You have given the gift of laughter to our people. May we never grow so somber or self-important that we fail to appreciate the humor in our lives."

Was Richard Nixon the Original Gerber Baby?

Fact Check: False

Sorry for anyone hoping President Richard Nixon was the Gerber baby! Nixon was born in 1913, more than a decade before the contest that chose the Gerber baby was launched (in 1928).

It turns out that we actually know where the baby came from. Gerber states on its website that the sketch was drawn by artist Dorothy Hope Smith. Smith said she would finish the sketch if chosen, but Gerber decided it was best to remain as it was. Gotta say, we still love it all these years later.

Did Jimmy Carter Help Contain a Nuclear Reactor in 1952?

Fact Check: True

OK, we all know Jimmy Carter to be one of the nicest presidents we've ever had, but did you know he did so much more? In 1952, a mechanical failure and human error caused a power surge at the NRX nuclear reactor at Chalk River Labs in Ontario, Canada.

Carter led a team of 23 people to assist in cleanup. They were lowered into the reactor and had a total of 90 seconds each to work. The core was shut down, rebuilt and put back into operation

Were Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter the Longest-Married Couple in Presidential History?

Fact Check: True

Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter showed true love can exist. The pair were married in 1946 after having known each other since they were babies! Rosalynn was a newborn, and Jimmy was just 3 years old.

They were together for 77 years before Rosalynn Carter died in November 2023.

Was Barack Obama Born in Hawaii?

Fact Check: True

Imagine waking up to a beautiful Hawaiian beach every day with the sun shining bright. That's precisely the life that Barack Obama experienced during his younger years. Because he's Hawaiian-born, that also makes him the only president born outside the contiguous 48 states.

Did George Washington Order Troops to Get Vaccinated Against Smallpox?

Fact Check: Mostly True

We've marked this one mostly true for one reason: It would be more accurate to say that his troops were inoculated against smallpox — although the words are often used interchangeably.

When they enlisted, Washington had them inoculated against smallpox so the troops would be outfitted and ready to join the battlefield once the symptoms subsided.

Were Alligators Ever Kept as White House Pets?

Fact Check: Unproven

After social media buzz, some people wondered whether alligators were kept as White House pets. Snopes wasn't able to find solid proof, although a 1958 book by Amy La Follette Jensen claimed an alligator was given to General Lafayette as a gift and was stored in the East Room until a suitable home was found.

While we're on the topic, President Herbert Hoover didn't let alligators roam the White House grounds. It's true that Hoover's son had two gators as pets as a young man, but neither he nor the alligators resided on White House grounds.

Did President Warren G. Harding Gamble Away the White House China?

Fact Check: Unproven

Warren G. Harding, America's 29th president, isn't exactly remembered for his stellar leadership. Instead, he's famous for a laundry list of scandals: shady oil deals, a White House bar during Prohibition and a scandalous affair with a woman decades younger.

This claim says Harding gambled away the White House china in one poker hand! The story comes from Betty Beale, a society writer who claimed Harding lost the china in a game with socialite Louise Cromwell Brooks.

While it seems credible, it's a single-source, secondhand account told by someone who learned about it 20 years later. You can see why this is "Unproven."

Was George W. Bush Arrested by U.S. Special Forces?

Fact Check: False

It would be wild, but no, George W. Bush wasn't arrested by U.S. Special Forces. The story popped up in November 2021, and our readers asked us to check it out.

The story was dramatic and over-the-top but totally false. Actually, Bush and his wife participated in an NFL game coin toss around the same time as the rumor, and he spoke at the Jefferson Education Society's Global Summit several days later.