Pete Buttigieg weighs in on America’s real ‘first gay president’ James Buchanan

Pete Buttigieg holding a microphone

Democratic US presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg has spoken about rumours that a previous US president, James Buchanan, was gay.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is running for the right to challenge Donald Trump in 2020, and if successful would be the first openly gay person in modern history to hold the office of US president.

However, he may not be the first ever gay person to hold the office, as historians widely accept that James Buchanan, the 15th US president, was gay.

Pete Buttigieg speaks about James Buchanan gay rumours

Buttigieg set the record straight in an interview with BuzzFeed‘s AM to DM, saying: “My gaydar is not great to begin with and it definitely doesn’t work over long stretches of time, so I think we’ll have to let the historians figure that one out.”

Buchanan served between 1857 and 1861, and though there are no surviving records in which he spoke about his sexuality, historians believe it was known by many of his contemporaries.

Reviled for his pro-slavery policies and considered one of the most ineffective presidents in US history, the lifelong bachelor is far from a positive LGBT+ role model.

However, Buchanan had a close and intimate relationship with future Vice President William Rufus King – with the pair living together for more than a decade.

King described the pair’s relationship as a “communion” and they were rarely seen apart.

Many commentators at the time remarked on the pair’s closeness, with Andrew Jackson referring to them as “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy.”

James Buchanan: ‘I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen’

A recent Washington Post column by Ezekiel Emanuel at the University of Pennsylvania makes the case further.

In a letter to a friend after King departed to take up a role Paris, Buchanan wrote: “I am now ‘solitary and alone,’ having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them.

“I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.”

15th President of the United States, James Buchanan

The 15th President of the United States, James Buchanan.

Writing to Buchanan from Paris, King added: “I am selfish enough to hope you will not be able to procure an associate who will cause you to feel no regret at our separation.

“For myself, I shall feel lonely in the midst of Paris, for here I shall have no Friend with whom I shall commune as with my own thoughts.”

Both Buchanan and King ordered all of their personal papers and records to be burned after their deaths, however, so the full truth is lost to history.