Much has been made over Donald Trump’s multiple marriages: The nation’s 45th president-elect ― and a noted “traditional marriage” advocate ― has been married to third wife Melania Knauss since 2005, but was divorced twice before that.
His first marriage to Ivana Zelnickova lasted from 1977 to 1992, reportedly ending in a $25 million settlement for Ivana. He was married to second wife Marla Maples from 1993 to 1999. He has children with all three women.
Trump created a media firestorm when he left Ivana for Maples in the early ‘90s ― and in typical fashion, he was all too willing to comment on it.
“When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of ass—a good one!—there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left,” he was quoted as saying in Vanity Fair in September 1990.
While Trump will be the first president to have multiple failed marriages under his belt, he won’t be America’s first divorced president: Ronald Reagan, the country’s 40th commander in chief, was the first and only other president to have taken office after going through a divorce.
The actor-turned-conservative politician split from his first wife, actress Jane Wyman, decades before he ran for president. He remarried in 1952 to Nancy Reagan, who became first lady when he took office in 1981.
Reagan’s marital history was seemingly a non-issue when he ran for office, but divorce had certainly been problematic for candidates in the past. In 1963, former Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York married his second wife Happy Rockefeller soon after both had divorced their first spouses. The New York Times speculates that the ensuing public controversy may have cost him the Republican presidential nomination in 1964.
By the time Reagan and his picture-perfect (second) marriage came around, Americans were ready for a divorcé to take office, writes political scientists Alexander Heard and Michael Nelson in their book Presidential Selection.
“Like Southernness and Catholicism, divorce was long considered a barrier to the presidency. Yet Reagan campaigned in 1976 and was elected in 1980 with scarcely a hint that his divorce should be held against him,” they write. “Society’s tolerance for divorce had grown so great during the 1960s that it no longer was a barrier when candidate Reagan encountered it.”
And it was definitely not a barrier in 2016 either.