The White House and cocaine: A brief history

The News

What better place for cocaine than a building called the White House? The Biden administration’s current quest to find who left a baggie is only the latest in a long history of coke-related investigations, anecdotes, and scandals spanning multiple presidents.

Jimmy Carter

Among other incidents, two of Carter’s top aides were investigated based on a tip they were together while one did cocaine at Studio 54. No charges were ever filed and, as Time wrote in 2014, the accusation was suspected of being a dirty trick by lawyer Roy Cohn to help out his clients, the disco’s legally troubled owners.

Ronald Reagan

“Just Say No” was Nancy Reagan’s message to kids considering drug use. It didn’t always have the best messengers, though, as one British actor brought in to promote the campaign, Erkan Mustafa, later confessed to doing cocaine on the visit.

George H.W. Bush

Another drug warrior, the elder Bush held up a baggie of crack cocaine during a primetime address that was seized just across the street from the White House. But the Drug Enforcement Agency was accused of going out of its way to coax a small-time 18-year old dealer to Lafayette Park in order to provide Bush with a theatrical bust for his speech.

Bill Clinton

The White House was accused of hiring dozens of staff who were found to have cocaine use and other red flags in their background checks. Then-president Clinton pardoned his half-brother Roger Clinton Jr. on his last day in office for a 1985 conviction for cocaine possession.

George W. Bush

“When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible,” the future president said when asked about his illegal drug use. Across multiple campaigns, he repeatedly declined to say whether he ever did cocaine.

Barack Obama

Polls showed the public didn’t care much about Bush’s hypothetical cocaine use, so it barely registered that Obama wrote in his memoirs about doing “a little blow” as a youth. In a strange kind of anti-scandal, an exhaustive New York Times investigation found he likely did fewer drugs than his public comments indicated.

Donald Trump

Trump famously was not into drinking or drugs. His son, Donald Trump, Jr. has denied speculation that his rowdy speaking style is cocaine-related, however, saying earlier this year he was merely “impassioned” and complaining of a double standard in how Hunter Biden is treated.