LOS ANGELES — Former United States President George HW Bush (93) apologised through a spokesman last week for what an actress described as a sexual assault but which Bush said was intended as a friendly pat and a joke to put her at ease during a picture-taking session.
Heather Lind, who starred in the AMC cable television network’s historical drama Turn: Washington’s Spies, accused Bush of groping her as they posed for photos together with his wife and others during a promotional event for the show in 2014.
The allegation surfaced in an Instagram post from Lind featuring a photograph of Bush shaking hands with former President Barack Obama during an appearance of all five living former presidents at Saturday’s hurricane fund-raising benefit.
In the post, 34-year-old Lind said seeing that photo reminded her of her own meeting with the 41st president three years earlier, when, according to her, “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,” Lind wrote. “He told me a dirty joke. And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again.”
Lind said the former first lady “rolled her eyes as if to say, ‘not again.’”
The Instagram post, since deleted, carried the “MeToo” social media hashtag spawned by the recent outpouring of sexual assault and sexual harassment accusations levelled against former Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein.
Bush’s spokesman Jim McGrath issued a statement in response to Lind’s post that sought to explain the former president’s behaviour as an attempt to make light of social awkwardness posed by his own physical disability during photo sessions.
“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 apologises most sincerely,” he wrote. — Reuters