Former US president George H.W. Bush has apologised after an actress claimed that he “sexually assaulted” her from his wheelchair during a photo op four years ago.
Heather Lind, 34, who is best known for appearing in the series Turn: Washington’s Spies, made the allegations against the 94-year-old in a long Instagram post, which has now been deleted. In the post, she claimed that Bush touched her from behind while posing for the photo and told her a dirty joke.
Lind alleges that he did it a second time, which his wife Barbara Bush witnessed. She says that one of Bush’s security guards told her that she “shouldn’t have stood next to him for the photo.”
The response from Bush, which was issued to several media organisations who chased up the allegations in the Instagram post, doesn’t address the specific claims made by Lind, but does apologise for the “joke”:
“President Bush would never — under any circumstance — intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologises if his attempt at humour offended Ms. Lind,” the statement from Bush’s office read.
It is unknown why the Instagram post was deleted. Before the deletion, the comments section was predictably quite bad, which commenters locked into a furious debate over whether Lind was correct to use the term ‘sexual assault’ to describe what transpired. (Obviously, if Bush did indeed grope her, then the term is accurate.)
The full caption to her Insta photo, which is cut off in the above photo, read as follows:
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. I found it disturbing because I recognise 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. #metoo