Actress Heather Lind said in a now-deleted Instagram post earlier this week that former President George H.W. Bush sexually assaulted her, prompting him to respond to her accusation via his spokesperson.
President Bush would never — under any circumstance — intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Ms. Lind.
Lind wrote that she 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 organising aid to states and territories damaged by recent hurricanes." She clarified that she 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." The photo, which appears on AMC's official website, circulated around the internet rather quickly.
Although Lind never specified where the assault took place, she said that Bush “touched [her] from behind from his wheelchair” while she posed for a photo with Bush and his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, at an event "to promote a historical TV show" in 2014.
"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," she continued in her Instagram post. "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."
Jim McGrath issued a second statement later yesterday to provide context to Lind's claim. "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," McGrath said. "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."
Neither apology, however, appeared to sit well with users on social media, like the man below, who used their accounts to comment on the news reports.
Bush's troubles have only amplified now that a second woman has come forward, alleging that the former president also groped her.
“I got sent the Heather Lind story by many people this morning,” Jordana Grolnick, a New York actress, told Deadspin. “And I’m afraid that mine is entirely similar.”
Grolnick described meeting Bush while working at a Maine production of Hunchback of Notre Dame. Bush, who summers in nearby Kennebunkport and is a frequent patron at the theater, attended a performance. She recalls that other performers warned her that the former president had a reputation for fondling during photo ops, but she shrugged off the stories.
“I guess I was thinking,” she says, “‘He’s in a wheelchair, what harm could he do?’ 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!’”
Numerous people, including friends, family members, and business associates, tried to get Grolnick to "laugh off" what had happened. Reportedly, her own grandmother attributed Bush's behavior to his Parkinson's Disease, noting that the former president "hasn't been well for years."
The accusations against Bush come in the wake of sexual harassment and rape allegations which recently felled the empire of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and the news has continued to splinter the business Weinstein helped create. Grolnick says the more than 50 women that came forward accusing Weinstein of assault, and the #MeToo movement started by activist Tarana Burke and reignited by actress Alyssa Milano, which asked women to respond "me too" if they had been victims of sexual assault, helped her grow comfortable with sharing her own story.
“I don’t want to belittle Heather Lind for feeling violated,” Grolnick says. “Now that the #metoo movement has brought this all to light, I think I should have been a little more alarmed to be touched so inappropriately by a man who was once the leader of the free world. He knows the power he has, and the reverence he deserves, even while sitting perhaps somewhat senile in a wheelchair. What I’ve come to realize is that if we tolerate these small comments and grazes from men on the street or former presidents, they might assume that it’s ok with us, and they may take it as permission to do who-knows-what else. I realize that making light of the situation was the wrong move. It wasn’t ok for him to do that to me. He wasn’t able to give me a job or a movie deal, so I didn’t feel compromised or pressured to do anything more, but the comments and assumptions about our bodies must stop, at all levels.”
In a statement, Bush’s spokesperson said that the former president apologized “most sincerely” for offending anyone. “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,” Bush’s spokesperson said in response to Grolnick. “Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate.”