American politicians who loved skinnydipping

Posted By KATE STANTON,  |  Aug. 20, 2012 at 11:11 AM
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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor reprimanded 30 of his fellow Republicans on Monday after word broke that Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder had gone skinnydipping in the religiously significant Sea of Galilee while on a congressional fact-finding mission to Israel.

Rep. Yoder apologized for his late-night shenanigans in a statement saying, "After dinner I followed some members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit."

But at least three American statesmen (that we know of) might have joined him.

-- Benjamin Franklin

Not only was American renaissance man Benjamin Franklin a prominent abolitionist, diplomat, postmaster, inventor, author and philosopher, he also loved to swim both clothed and nude at a time when, according to Smithsonian Magazine, "swimming was something most people did only to escape drowning."

Franklin went for daily swims in London's river Thames in the 1750s, but ultimately ditched skinny-dipping for "air baths," which he described in a 1750 letter to a friend:

You know the cold bath has long been in vogue here (London) as a tonic, but the shock of the cold water has always appeared to me as too violent, and I have found it much more agreeable to my constitution to bathe in another element, I mean cold air. With this in view I rise almost every morning and sit in my chamber without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing.

-- Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt, America's physically active 26th president advocated for "the strenuous life," in which men did "not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil."

An avid boxer, hiker, rower and horseback rider, Roosevelt practiced what he preached, skinny-dipping in the cold waters of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. each winter.

Roosevelt described it thusly in his autobiography: "If we swam the Potomac, we usually took off our clothes."

He added:

I remember one such occasion when the French Ambassador, Jusserand, who was a member of the Tennis Cabinet, was along, and, just as we were about to get in to swim, somebody said, 'Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Ambassador, you haven't taken off your gloves,' to which he promptly responded, 'I think I will leave them on; we might meet ladies!'

-- John Quincy Adams

Roosevelt's not the only president who loved to swim naked in the Potomac River. John Quincy Adams, in office from 1825 to 1829, stripped down to his birthday suit for laps in the Potomac at 5:00am every morning.

According to Mental Floss, an intrepid female reporter once forced Adams into an interview by sitting on the clothes he left on the bank, refusing to give them back until she got the presidential scoop.

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