Former President George H.W. Bush apologized after an actress accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2014, but passed off the interaction as an “attempt at humor.”
Actress Heather Lind accused the former president of assaulting her in a now-deleted Instagram post on Tuesday. Lind met Bush when he attended a screening of a television show Lind appeared on. When they posed for the photo, Lind reportedly wrote, Bush didn’t shake her hand and then “touched [her] from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side.”
“He sexually assaulted me… 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,’” Lind wrote, according to reports. “His security guard told me I shouldn’t have stood next to him for the photo.”
“President Bush would never — under any circumstance — intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Ms. Lind,” Bush spokesperson Jim McGrath said in a statement Wednesday.
Sexual assault, of course, is not a joke. Sexual assault is about power and a culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity.
“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,” Lind wrote in her post. “He relinquished that power when he used it against me and, judging from the comments of those around him, countless other women before me.”
Lind’s post alleging Bush assaulted her comes in the wake of an avalanche of allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile industry figures that have ignited a national conversation about sexual assault, harassment, abuse, and rape — and the culture that enables this violence.
In the wake of the Weinstein allegations, President Trump and other Republicans hit Weinstein not on his alleged predatory behavior but rather on the fact that he was a high-profile Democratic donor who had allegedly assaulted, harassed, and raped a number of women for decades.
But Bush is further proof that sexual assault allegations aren’t a partisan issue.
More than a dozen women have also accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment, and one of the women who has accused Trump, Summer Zervos, recently filed a subpoena seeking any documents from the Trump campaign referencing “any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.”
Trump has denied the allegations, saying they are “totally fake news.”
UPDATE: Bush’s office released a statement Wednesday evening doubling down on its earlier comments.
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) October 25, 2017
“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,” the statement said. “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.”