This week, actress Heather Lind accused former president George H. W. Bush of “saxual harassment” in 2014, when Bush was 91 years old and already in a wheelchair, saying he patted her rear end and made an off-color joke (now widely reported as referring to himself as David-Cop-A-Feel). Bush apologized through his spokesman on Wednesday morning, saying, “President Bush would never — under any circumstance — intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Ms. Lind.”
Wednesday afternoon, Bush decided to head off other accusers who might pop up to accuse him of “saxual harassment” for patting their rear ends, issuing a statement saying, “On occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; some clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”
Meanwhile, Deadspin reported that it had discovered the “dirty joke” Lind referred to in her statement: “More than a year ago, a tipster passed word about the Heather Lind incident to Deadspin. We were told that Bush had, during a photo opp, groped her and told her that his favorite magician was ‘David Cop-a-Feel’ while fondling her.”
Deadspin also reported that actress Jordana Grolnick claims she had a similar experience to Lind’s two years later, when she was working at a Maine production of Hunchback of Notre Dame, one performance of which Bush attended. She said, “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!’”
Rumors about Bush groping actresses in this manner have been circulating for a while. More than a year ago, a tipster passed word about the Heather Lind incident to Deadspin. We were told that Bush had, during a photo opp, groped her and told her that his favorite magician was “David Cop-a-Feel” while fondling her.
Bush spokesperson Jim McGrath provided the following statement:
“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.”
Two actresses—Lind and Grolnick—who had accused Bush of groping, and also two Twitter users on April 4, 2014, made reference to the “David Cop-a-Feel” joke. Today, in the wake of the Lind story, Grolnick wanted to tell her story.
In August 2016, Grolnick was working at a Maine production of Hunchback of Notre Dame. The former president, who summers in nearby Kennebunkport and frequents this theater, caught a performance. He came backstage during an intermission, she says, and she and the rest of the cast gathered for a photo with him.
Grolnick now says that other actors had told her before the photo that Bush had a reputation for fondling during photo ops, but she didn’t take it seriously.
“I guess I was thinking,” she says, “‘He’s in a wheelchair, what harm could he do?’”
Then her question got answered.
“We all circled around him and Barbara for a photo, and I was right next to him,” she says. “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 says others in the room “laughed politely and out of discomfort.” Former first lady Barbara Bush was among those nearby. “[She] said something along the lines of, ‘He’s going to get himself put into jail!’ to which we laughed harder,” Grolnick says.
Grolnick went home and posted the backstage photo with the former president on Instagram:
Grolnick did more than put out word of the incident on Instagram, however. She told friends and family, too. And she was heartened that, despite the power differential between the accuser and the accused, there were no hints that she was making anything up. “Nobody didn’t believe me,” she says.
Those around her, though, had varied reactions to the news she’d been groped*. “I told my grandmother first, because she was with me right after it happened,” Grolnick says. “She just said, ‘Oh, he’s just sick! He hasn’t been well for years!’ She was just laughing it off.”
Grolnick says, however, that her father got angry. But she now says she never seriously considered pushing the matter with the theater or legal authorities, and almost “laughed it off.”
“I just thought, ‘Whatever. He’s a dirty old man,’” she says.
But recent trends in truth-telling in entertainment and media, and empathy for Lind, changed her mind about the propriety of letting the matter die.
“I don’t want to belittle Heather Lind for feeling violated,” she 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.”
EARLIER: Heather Lind: George H W Bush Apologised After #metoo Saxual Assault Accusation – Former US President George H W Bush (elder bush) has apologized to American actress Heather Lind after she accused him of saxual assault in a now-deleted Instagram post.
Heather Lind, who starred in the AMC series “Turned: Washington’s Spies,” wrote that the former US President “touched me from behind” repeatedly at a press event in March 2014.
She did not offer further specifics, but said that in her view Bush had “saxually assaulted me,” taking advantage of the power of his former office to do so. The photograph of the moment Lind describes is our featured image.
A spokesman for the former president apologised and described the interaction as “an attempt at humor.”
Lind tagged the post with the #metoo hashtag, which has been used by women to tell stories of saxually aggressive behaviour by powerful men in the wake of accusations against Harvey Weinstein.
She speculated that “countless” other women had experienced similar things, and said that former Lady Barbara Bush seemed aware of what was going on, and “rolled her eyes.”
She says a security guard blamed her for standing too close to Bush. Lind’s post has since been deleted, but is reproduced in full below.
Reporters put the accusation to a spokesman for Bush, who apologised on his behalf. The statement said: “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 her post was prompted by seeing Bush on stage at a fundraising event for victims of the hurricanes, which have recently struck the US mainland and territories like Puerto Rico.
She said the image of Bush being lauded for his charitable work “disturbed” her, and compelled her to speak out. It is not clear why the post was deleted.
Nick Westrate, Lind’s “Turned” co-star, praised her honesty:
Nick Westrate ✔@westratenick : Could not be prouder of @heatherglind. I hope everyone keeps speaking up and speaking out.
Here is Lind’s post in full:
“I 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 organizing aid to states and territories damaged by recent hurricanes.
I 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.
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 saxually 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”