Two actresses have accused former President George H.W. Bush of groping them during separate photo shoots — and Bush has acknowledged he has “patted women's rears” in an attempt to “put people at ease,” according to Deadspin and Newsweek.
On Tuesday, actress Heather Lind wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post that the 93-year-old ex-president “touched me from behind” during a photo op three years ago before telling her “a dirty joke.” Lind appeared with Bush as part of a promotion for Turn: Washington's Spies, a TV show about the American Revolution.
Then on Wednesday, New York actress Jordana Grolnick told Deadspin a similar story. “I got sent the Heather Lind story by many people this morning,” Grolnick says. “And I’m afraid that mine is entirely similar.”
A spokesperson for the ex-president responded to the allegations with an apology statement, tweeted by the Los Angeles Times’ Matt Pearce:
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 controversy surrounding the ex-president began earlier this week with Lind. In the now-deleted post, Lind documents being groped by Bush while he was in his wheelchair.
... 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.
The accusation comes in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and a series of high-profile sexual assault allegations made against powerful men. Since the Weinstein scandal broke, female lawmakers like Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and a state lawmaker in Rhode Island have said they were sexually harassed by male politicians. George H.W. Bush is the latest politician to face these allegations.