Heather Lind, a Hollywood and Broadway actress who stars in the AMC historical drama Turn: Washington’s Spies, is accusing former President George H.W. Bush, the nation’s oldest living president, of sexual assault, alleging that Bush touched her inappropriately from his wheelchair while telling her a “dirty joke” in front of his wife, Barbara. A second actress has now also accused Bush of groping her, while allegedly telling a bawdy joke about “David Cop-a-Feel.”
Lind, 34, who plays a spy in the Revolutionary War drama, lodged the accusation against the 93-year-old former president on Instagram but wrote that the alleged incident occurred four years before. She accompanied her accusations with the hashtag #metoo, joining the legions of women across the United States who have used the hashtag 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.
The former president released an early statement to the UK Daily Mail. “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 statement said. Bush’s office released a second statement on October 25 which said the former president “has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner.” This is that statement:
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.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Lind Accused Bush Sr. of Touching Her ‘From Behind From His Wheelchair’ With His Wife at His Side & a Second Actress Has Also Come Forward
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 and rolled her eyes after the former president groped her. Lind shared 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. She wrote that she does not respect Bush Sr., and she felt compelled to speak out after running across the photo of Bush Sr. and Obama.
Here is her post, which she took down after it went viral, in full:
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.
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!’”
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. Barbara Bush was also briefly hospitalized after her husband for her own health problems.
However, both Bushes recovered from those health scares, and they have appeared in public at events in recent weeks and months. Bush Sr. has been somewhat active on social media in recent months, meeting with veterans and opining about the crisis in Puerto Rico.
2. Top Industry Professionals Wrote to Back Up Lind’s Account
Some top industry professionals have written accounts that back Lind’s story up. They alleged that they were there when the incident occurred. Joel Stillerman was named Hulu’s chief content officer in May 2017. He wrote, “As you know, Heather, I was there. It was a terrible moment for you, but you were strong then, and you are strong now. In the wake of all the recent news, everyone who has been proximate to an incident like this has had to contemplate whether their response was appropriate. I’m sorry you had to live through that, and I hope the groundswell of awareness around this issue makes it harder for perpetrators to act like this, and easier for victims and bystanders to call it out when it occurs. Stay strong.”
Other actors who were on the show, Turn, have also voiced support for Lind. The response to her post from others has diverged greatly and, in some cases, along political lines. Some people on her Instagram comment thread have criticized her politically, questioned why she didn’t share the story earlier, or, in other cases, they are applauding her for courage and bravery.
Craig Silverstein, the executive producer/showrunner for Turn, wrote under the Heather Lind Instagram post, “I was there. Probably ten feet away. I remember watching your eyes bulge in shock. The cameras snapping away. We all learned what happened about five minutes later and were shocked. I remember seeing you in the alcove of the theater doors, trying to collect yourself afterwards. I think it’s incredibly brave of you to share this.”
3. Heather Lind Has Posted Political Comments in the Past
Heather Lind has spoken out about politics on social media. On Instagram, Lind posted a photo of Hillary Clinton with the caption “#yaaaskween ?” She also posted a photo of Gloria Steinem’s book “My Life on the Road,” writing, “Recommended reading/re-reading for all in this moment. The power of MOVEMENTS. The strength of ORGANIZING. The evidence of PROGRESS. The respect for BALANCE. And the offering MEMORY has for us as we strive for PEACE. (It will make you feel better, I promise.) ❤️””
She also has a Twitter page, but her recent posts are mostly about her acting role on AMC’s Turn. She wrote more about politics during the presidential campaign season. In 2016, she retweeted someone else’s comment that said, “Sorry, Trump and Pence. There’s nothing more ‘broad shouldered’ than a power pants suit. #VPDebate.” Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Lind wrote on Twitter, “yes take a breath #hill. take a breath. #debatenight #Debates2016 #HillaryClinton.” On November 9, 2016, she wrote that she had registered to volunteer for Planned Parenthood, saying, “Registered to volunteer for @PPFA to help support #womensrights in my city! #backtowork??.”
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.
4. Heather Lind Plays the Character Anna Strong, a Spy, in the Historical Drama
On television, Lind plays a Revolutionary War-era spy. According to the AMC description for Turn, “TURN: Washington’s Spies takes viewers into the stirring and treacherous world of the Revolutionary War and introduces Abraham Woodhull who, after aligning with a group of childhood friends, forms the Culper Ring — America’s first spy ring.” The show’s website describes Lind’s character Anna Strong by saying, “Anna, a.k.a. ‘The Signal of Setauket,’ is the heart of the four friends comprising the Culper Ring—ready to do whatever is necessary for the cause.”
Heather Lind got her start on Broadway in theater productions, according to the show biography for her. “Heather Lind’s first role on Broadway was opposite Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice, for which she won the Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut,” the biography reads. She is also the winner of a SAG award.
“She previously played the role when the production originated at the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park, where she also starred in A Winter’s Tale. She also starred as Eliza Doolittle opposite Robert Sean Leonard in Pygmalion at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Television credits include a recurring role on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, for which Lind won a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, and she costarred opposite Sam Rockwell in the independent film A Single Shot,” according to the show bio.
5. Lind, Who Is an Identical Twin, Attended New York University & Fordham College
According to the show biography, Heather Lind “was most recently seen in Jean Marc Vallée’s Demolition, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, and in Mistress America with Greta Gerwig, directed by Noah Baumbach. Her recent stage appearances include starring in Incognito and Of Good Stock at the Manhattan Theater Club.”
She “attended Fordham College at Lincoln Center and received her MFA from the NYU Graduate Acting Program,” the biography notes. According to IMDB, Lind was born in Pennsylvania but raised in New York. “Raised in Guilderland, New York, her father was a painter and an educator at a museum and her mother was a ballet and nursery school teacher. Both are retired,” the site reports.
Lind is an identical twin. Her sister, Christina Bennett Lind, is also an actress. Heather Lind’s twin is “an actress and producer, known for… Calico Skies (2016) and End of the Innocents (2011),” according to IMDB.