The office of President George H.W. Bush released an unusual statement on October 25, admitting that the nation’s oldest living president, who is 93 years old, “patted women’s rears.” However, Bush meant it in a “good-natured manner,” the statement contends.
The statement – which comes as two women have publicly accused Bush Sr. of groping them – also said that Bush’s arm falls “on the lower waist” of people because he’s confined to a wheelchair. This is the Bush Sr. statement in full:
At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures. To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke – and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.
The first allegation against Bush was lodged by Heather Lind, a Hollywood and Broadway actress who stars in the AMC historical drama Turn: Washington’s Spies. In an Instagram post she has since deleted, Lind accused Bush of sexual assault, alleging that Bush touched her inappropriately from his wheelchair while telling her a “dirty joke” in front of his wife, Barbara. Lind, 34, plays a spy in the Revolutionary War drama. The second accusation came in the wake of Lind’s account from Jordana Grolnick, a New York actress. Grolnick told Deadspin of the Lind story and her own: “And I’m afraid that mine is entirely similar.”
According to Deadspin, Grolnick says that she met Bush backstage after a play in Maine: “We all circled around him and Barbara for a photo, and I was right next to him. He reached his right hand around to my behind, and as we smiled for the photo he asked the group, ‘Do you want to know who my favorite magician is?’ As I felt his hand dig into my flesh, he said, ‘David Cop-a-Feel!’”
Lind wrote that the alleged incident occurred four years before. She accompanied her accusations with the hashtag #metoo, joining women across the United States who have used it to publicly allege that they were victims of sexual harassment or abuse. Actress Alyssa Milano started the #metoo trend on Twitter in the wake of the sexual abuse allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“President Bush would never — under any circumstance — intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Ms. Lind,” the former president’s office told UK Daily Mail in its first statement.
In the lengthy Instagram post, which she posted on October 24, 2017, and has since deleted, Lind alleged that the former president’s wife, Barbara Bush, was present during the incident. She wrote that she decided to post about it after running across a photo of Bush Sr. in his wheelchair shaking hands with Barack Obama during a gathering of ex-presidents designed to help with hurricane disaster relief.
Here is her post, which she took down after it went viral:
I was disturbed today by a photo I saw of President Barack Obama shaking hands with George H. W. Bush in a gathering of ex-presidents organizing aid to states and territories damaged by recent hurricanes. I found it disturbing because I recognize the respect ex-presidents are given for having served. And I feel pride and reverence toward many of the men in the photo. But when I got the chance to meet George H. W. Bush four years ago to promote a historical television show I was working on, he sexually assaulted me while I was posing for a similar photo. He didn’t shake my hand. He touched me from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side. He told me a dirty joke. And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again. Barbara rolled her eyes as if to say “not again”. His security guard told me I shouldn’t have stood next to him for the photo. We were instructed to call him Mr. President. It seems to me a President’s power is in his or her capacity to enact positive change, actually help people, and serve as a symbol of our democracy. He relinquished that power when he used it against me and, judging from the comments of those around him, countless other women before me. What comforts me is that I too can use my power, which isn’t so different from a President really. I can enact positive change. I can actually help people. I can be a symbol of my democracy. I can refuse to call him President, and call out other abuses of power when I see them. I can vote for a President, in part, by the nature of his or her character, knowing that his or her political decisions must necessarily stem from that character. My fellow cast-mates and producers helped me that day and continue to support me. I am grateful for the bravery of other women who have spoken up and written about their experiences. And I thank President Barack Obama for the gesture of respect he made toward George H. W. Bush for the sake of our country, but I do not respect him.
Both the former president and his wife have been ill and hospitalized in recent months. In January 2017, Bush was placed in intensive care in the hospital after he complained of shortness of breath. Bush Sr. has been somewhat active on social media in recent months, meeting with veterans and opining about the crisis in Puerto Rico.
George H.W. Bush, a Republican, served as the nation’s 41st president, holding office from 1989 to 1993 and is the father of President George W. Bush. As WhiteHouse.gov notes in Bush’s official biography, Bush Sr. “brought to the White House a dedication to traditional American values and a determination to direct them toward making the United States ‘a kinder and gentler nation’ in the face of a dramatically changing world.” Bush also held other top positions in American politics, serving as CIA director, a Congressman, and as Vice President.