What famous figures were you most surprised to discover were huge assholes?

Thomas Edison is at the top of my personal list, though Isaac Newton comes a close second. Just goes to show what kind of job school history classes do (or a tribute to the sheer complexity of human nature and history).

What about yours? They don’t necessarily have to be historical, though I’d prefer to skip celebrities to keep it out of tabloid/Cafe Society territory. Plus, given what happens with historical reputations, it might be the most fertile area. But it’s up to you!

Not that I don’t believe you, but cite?

More than anything I’m wondering why Thomas Edison was a douche.

I’ve read conflicting stories about whether Edison was an asshole or not. Any book concerning Tesla seems to paint him in a harsh light, others I’ve read just make him sound driven. I’m not a scholar though, I don’t know which portrayal is the more accurate.

Per the OP, I was surprised to read about Einstein’s womanizing and general neglect of his children. I guess it doesn’t necessarily make him a huge asshole just a poor father but it still surprises me considering his spiritual beliefs and humanitarianism would you would think would have led him to be more caring with his family.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. certainly had some skeletons in his closet which would have stayed there if it weren’t for illegal government spying. Of course the founding fathers all have been re-evaluated to reflect a different understanding of the institution of slavery. I always choose to see the option human complexity option rather than the asshole option, it seems more fair and I find it more interesting.

Andrew Jackson.

Harlan Ellison. I had heard nothing but positive stories about him - people singing his praises left and right about what a kind, polite guy he was, how he was always extremely nice to fans and never argumentative or pushy, and completely unpretentious. I was seriously stunned when he shoved my face into a urinal in the bathroom of the Embassy Suites in Chicago and whipped me with a belt after I asked him for an autograph.

Harlan Ellison is hard of hearing, but he’s a really polite guy. I’m sure that he just misunderstood your request…

I guess that Martin Luther would be my pick. It seems strainge that someone who did more than any other Westerner to promote the idea that spirituality was a personal issue and not a patriarchal one would have as irritable of nature as he supposedly had. Of course, he was a lawyer, in poor health for much of his life, and was hunted for a fair part of his life as well.

Alexander Hamilton.

Google could have told you that he’s less than wholly pleasant:
Results 1 - 10 of about 7,810 for harlan ellison asshole. (0.25 seconds)

Martin Luther was also a virulently anti-Jewish bastard whose ideas led to the persecution and massacres of thousands of Jews, some of whom were probably my ancestors. "He advocated setting synagogues on fire, destroying Jewish prayerbooks, forbidding rabbis from preaching, seizing Jews’ property and money, smashing up their homes, and ensuring that these “poisonous envenomed worms” be forced into labor or expelled “for all time.” He also seemed to sanction their murder, writing “We are at fault in not slaying them.”

He was an evil cocksucker, and right now he is roasting in hell for what he did. I read that he was very ill before he died - I hope he was in excruciating pain. (Jewish doctors probably could have helped him, since the Jews actually gave a shit about education and learning at a time when everyone else was illiterate. But I doubt he would have accepted their help, being that they were an evil, filthy race and all [despite the fact that they survived the Black Plague in far higher numbers than the Christians because of the revolutionary, ingenious Jewish practice of taking a fucking bath.])

Hey, it’s my humble opinion. Martin Luther was a villain of history, a total bastard and an unspeakably evil piece of shit - EVERY BIT as evil as Adolf Hitler. Fuck him.

Cite on Newton? He was kind of a weirdo, but I’ve never heard of him being an asshole.

Henry Ford was vehementally anti-Semetic. A real Jew hater. His writings might have had some impact in starting the Holocaust.

I stopped reading Orson Scott Card when I read his thoughts on homosexuals.

Woodrow Wilson. Champion of Democracy abroad. At home? Horrid racist who increased segregation wherever it was in his power. Fought tooth and nail against women’s sufferage. Campaigned for re-election on the basis that “he kept us out of war”, but when the US finally did enter the war, went to startling lengths to squelch any anti-war dissent.

“St Francis of Assisi” and “asshole” has 5,260 hits, I don’t think that makes St. Francis an asshole (or 5/8ths as much of an asshole as Harlan Ellison).

Yeah, but were you able to get those results in 0.25 seconds?

Key difference:
The first several pages for the H.E. A-Hole search are actually full of arguments for and against him being an asshole.
The first page of hits for St Francis of Assisi A-Hole doesn’t actually contain anyone claiming he was an asshole.

Uranus.

Wiki: “In 1902, agents of Thomas Edison bribed a theater owner in London for a copy of A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès. Edison then made hundreds of copies and showed them in New York City. Méliès received no compensation. He was counting on taking the film to US and recapture the huge cost of it by showing it throughout the US when he realized it has already been showing in the US by Edison. This bankrupted Méliès.”
“Edison’s favourite movie was The Birth of a Nation.”

"Another of Edison’s assistants was Nikola Tesla, who claimed that Edison promised him $50,000 if he succeeded in making improvements to his DC generation plants. Tesla claimed that several months later, when he had finished the work and asked to be paid, Edison said, “When you become a full-fledged American you will appreciate an American joke.”[37] Tesla immediately resigned. "
On the other hand, he seemed to have quite enlightened views, mostly about solving conflicts with non-violence. A complex man.

He nailed my wife’s head to a coffee table.

Same here, how was he a jerk?