Days after two actresses came out about being groped by former president George H.W. Bush, another woman has come forward saying the former president told her the same dirty joke before grabbing her.
In an article for Slate, British-born novelist Christina Baker Kline said Bush Sr. “squeezed my butt hard” during an April 2014 photo op after telling her his now-famous “David Cop-a-Feel” joke.
She was in Houston as a guest author for a fundraiser put on by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
She was invited to a private luncheon before the event where they took photos, which is when she met Bush Sr.
He asked her if she was an author, and when she replied that he was, he gestured for her to come close and whispered that his favorite book was “David Cop-a-feel,” a play on the title of Charles Dickens’ book “David Copperfield.”
“And [he] squeezed my butt, hard, just as the photographer snapped the photo,” Baker Kline said.
— Slate (@Slate) October 27, 2017
She remembers him laughing like “a mischievous boy” while she tried to maintain her composure for the camera.
After the event, she said she got a ride with one of the friends of the Bush family. In the car, she told her husband David, who had been standing on the other side of Bush during the photo op, what had happened.
The driver, who had stopped at a red light, turned around and told her, “I do trust you will be discreet,” Baker Kline said.
“Her comment wasn’t menacing. But in that moment I thought: ‘She has heard this before. The people around President Bush are accustomed to doing damage control. There must be many of us,’ I remember thinking,” she said. “And now I know there are.”
AMC actress Heather Lind was the first to come out about this behavior, accusing Bush in an Instagram post of sexually assaulting her in a similar situation in 2014.
And days later, New York actress Jordana Grolnick said Bush grabbed her from behind during a group photo last year.
Lind said in the now-deleted Instagram post on Tuesday, Oct. 24, that the former president inappropriately touched her in a photo op during the 2014 screening of TV series “Turn: Washington’s Spies,” which she played a lead role in.
“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,” she wrote.
She said Barbara rolled her eyes as if to say “not again,” and a security guard for the former president later told her she shouldn’t have stood next to him.
Grolnick was posing with Bush after a performance she did last year at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine when her incident happened.
She told Deadspin that Bush told her his favorite magician was “David Cop-a-Feel” before he grabbed her.
She said Barbara, who was standing right behind Bush, said something like, “He’s going to get himself put into jail.”
— Zoë Grolnick (@ZoeGrolnick189) November 6, 2014
Bush’s spokesperson said in a statement to Deadspin and Slate, which reached out after Baker Kline and Grolnick shared their stories, that the joke was Bush’s way of making light of his infirmity, and that his wandering hands were a result of his Parkinson’s-like disease.
“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,” spokesman Jim McGrath said.
“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.”
Through McGrath, Bush also issued an apology to Lind, but stopped short of admitting what he did was sexual assault.
“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’s condition, vascular Parkinsonism, has symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, but is believed to be caused by stroke-like damage to the brain, and is not degenerative like Parkinson’s.
Vascular Parkinsonism usually leaves its victim paralyzed in the lower body, and because it results from damage to the brain, it can, in some cases, lead to personality changes in the victim.
It “could lead to behaviors that are not voluntary—not entirely under their control or volition,” Dr. Alberto J. Espay, a professor of neurology at the University of Cincinnati, told USA Today.
Dr. Jeff Bronstein, a neurologist and director of the Movement Disorders Program at UCLA, told the paper that some outliers “become disinhibited and do things they wouldn’t do.”
Addressing the former president’s condition, Baker Kline says she doesn’t think what he did was a result of uncontrollable impulses.
“Three and a half years ago President Bush might not have been as mentally acute, but over the course of the weekend I saw him actively engaged in conversation and to all appearances controlling his impulses. He made a choice to do what he did to me,” she wrote.
She said she came forward after the Grolnick and Lind told their stories, and that she held off for so long because she was recovering from breast cancer at the time and didn’t want to deal with the inevitable backlash. She also didn’t want to seem opportunistic, she said, or besmirch the reputation of the literacy foundation, “which does wonderful work.”
“Most of all, I didn’t want to be perceived as being cruel to a harmless, aging former president with a reputation for courtly gentility,” she wrote. “But now, with two women talking about the same behavior—even the same crude joke—I feel compelled to step forward.”