Another woman has come forward with allegations that George H.W. Bush groped her as she posed for a photo with the former president at an event.
Novelist Christina Baker Kline became the third woman this week to make such allegations, writing in Slate that Bush inappropriately touched her in April 2014 at a fundraiser for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. While she was taking a picture with Bush at the event, Kline wrote, Bush asked: “You wanna know my favorite book?”
“Yes, what is it?” she recalled responding. According to her article:
By now the photographer was readying the shot. My husband stood on one side of the wheelchair, and I stood on the other. President Bush put his arm around me, low on my back. His comic timing was impeccable. “David Cop-a-feel,” he said, and squeezed my butt, hard, just as the photographer snapped the photo. Instinctively, I swiped his hand away.
A friend of the Bush family, Kline said, later asked the best-selling author to be “discreet” about the incident.
Two other women, actresses Heather Lind and Jordana Grolnick, said earlier this week that they were groped by the 41st president while taking photos with him at other events. Both actresses said former first lady Barbara Bush saw the incidents.
Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said earlier this week that the former president occasionally “patted women’s rears,” but that he never intended to offend or act inappropriately. In a statement issued by McGrath, Bush apologized:
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.
On Thursday, McGrath told The Post that Barbara Bush had no comment about the allegations from Lind and Grolnick. The spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment Friday about Kline’s allegation. But Slate said McGrath directed the magazine to his earlier statement.
Kline has written seven novels, including “Orphan Train” and “A Piece of the World.” In her piece for Slate, she wrote that she and her husband were posing next to Bush in his wheelchair when he beckoned Kline to come closer to him and told her, “It’s truly an honor to meet you” and “You’re beautiful.”
After making his “David Cop-a-feel” joke and touching her, Kline wrote, the former president laughed “like a mischievous boy.” She said she struggled to keep a smile on her face for the photo. Her husband, Kline wrote, stood on the other side of Bush’s wheelchair, smiling and unaware of what had happened.
Kline said she kept quiet about the incident because she didn’t want to face the scrutiny she knew the allegation would bring. She had been finishing a series of treatments for an invasive form of breast cancer a year earlier, and her hair had only just grown back, she said.
“I was vulnerable enough; I didn’t want to face the consequences of making such an accusation,” she wrote, citing President Trump’s comment that a woman wasn’t physically attractive enough to be sexually harassed by him.
Bush used a variation of the same joke on Grolnick, as well. She told Deadspin on Wednesday that she was working on a production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in Maine in August 2016, near the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, when Bush came backstage during intermission and grabbed her rear as they posed for a picture.
“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!'” Grolnick said, according to Deadspin.
The other women posing for the photo laughed uncomfortably, Grolnick said, while Barbara Bush made a remark along the lines of “He’s going to get himself put into jail!” Grolnick, who posted a photo of the moment on her Instagram account, said she had been warned by other actors not to stand next to Bush.
Lind said the incident involving her happened four years ago, when she met Bush while promoting a historical television show she was working on. She played Anna Strong in AMC’s Revolutionary War-era drama “Turn: Washington Spies,” which premiered in 2014. She said Bush “sexually assaulted” her as she stood next to him during a photo op.
“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, he touched me again,” Lind wrote in an Instagram post, which has since been deleted.
Lind said Barbara Bush “rolled her eyes as if to say ‘not again’” when she saw what happened. Lind also said that a security guard later told her that she shouldn’t have stood next to Bush.
Dozens of actresses have gone public with allegations that Hollywood producer and former studio executive Harvey Weinstein either sexually harassed or assaulted them. Explosive reports by the New York Times and the New Yorker detailed previously undisclosed allegations of harassment and criminal sexual abuse that spanned several years. The Washington Post found three more similar cases.
Millions of women and men have since taken to Facebook and Twitter, using #MeToo as they post their own experiences with sexual harassment or assault. Lind also used the hashtag on her Instagram post.
“What comforts me is that I too can use my power, which isn’t so different from a president really,” she wrote. “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.”
Lind said she decided to talk about the incident after seeing a photo of Bush and President Barack Obama shaking hands at an event last weekend. The two, along with three other former presidents, appeared at a benefit concert Saturday in Texas to raise money for hurricane victims.
“I found it disturbing because I recognize the respect ex-presidents are given for having served,” Lind said. “And I feel pride and reverence toward many of the men in the photo.”
It’s unclear when exactly Lind shared the Instagram post or when and why she decided to delete it. Her manager has not responded to requests for comment.
Bush is scheduled to join his son President George W. Bush to throw the ceremonial first pitch before Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday in Houston. The younger Bush will throw the pitch, and his father will say “play ball” to start the game.
Eli Rosenberg contributed to this report.