For­mer pres­i­dent faces new claim

Sunday Star-Times - - World -

An­other woman has come for­ward with al­le­ga­tions that Ge­orge H W Bush groped her as she posed for a photo with the for­mer US pres­i­dent at an event.

Novelist Christina Baker Kline be­came the third woman this week to make such al­le­ga­tions, writ­ing in Slate that Bush in­ap­pro­pri­ately touched her in April 2014 at a fundraiser for the Bar­bara Bush Foun­da­tion for Fam­ily Lit­er­acy.

Kline wrote that while she was tak­ing a pic­ture with Bush at the event, he asked: ‘‘You wanna know my fa­vorite book?’’

‘‘Yes, what is it?’’ she re­called re­spond­ing.

‘‘By now, the pho­tog­ra­pher was ready­ing the shot,’’ she wrote. ‘‘My hus­band stood on one side of the wheel­chair, and I stood on the other. Pres­i­dent Bush put his arm around me, low on my back.

‘‘His comic tim­ing was im­pec­ca­ble. ‘David Cop-a-feel,’ he said, and squeezed my butt, hard, just as the pho­tog­ra­pher snapped the photo. In­stinc­tively, I swiped his hand away.’’

Kline said a friend of the Bush fam­ily later asked her to be ‘‘dis­creet’’ about the in­ci­dent.

Two other women, ac­tresses Heather Lind and Jor­dana Grol­nick, said ear­lier this week that they were groped by the 41st pres­i­dent while tak­ing pho­tos with him at other events.

Both said for­mer first lady Bar­bara Bush saw the in­ci­dents.

Bush spokesman Jim Mc­Grath said ear­lier this week that the for­mer pres­i­dent oc­ca­sion­ally ‘‘pat­ted women’s rears’’, but that he never in­tended to of­fend or act in­ap­pro­pri­ately. In a state­ment is­sued by Mc­Grath, Bush apol­o­gised.

Mc­Grath told The Washington Post that Bar­bara Bush had no com­ment about the al­le­ga­tions by Lind and Grol­nick. He could not be im­me­di­ately reached for com­ment about Kline’s al­le­ga­tion, but Slate said Mc­Grath di­rected the mag­a­zine to his ear­lier state­ment.

Kline wrote that af­ter mak­ing his ‘‘David Cop-a-feel’’ joke and touch­ing her, the for­mer pres­i­dent laughed ‘‘like a mis­chievous boy’’. She said she strug­gled to keep a smile on her face for the photo. Her hus­band stood on the other side of Bush’s wheel­chair, smil­ing and un­aware of what had hap­pened.

Kline said she kept quiet about the in­ci­dent be­cause she didn’t want to face the scru­tiny she knew the al­le­ga­tion would bring. She had been fin­ish­ing a se­ries of treat­ments for an in­va­sive form of breast can­cer a year ear­lier, and her hair had only just grown back, she said.

‘‘I was vul­ner­a­ble enough; I didn’t want to face the con­se­quences of mak­ing such an ac­cu­sa­tion,’’ she wrote, cit­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s com­ment that a woman wasn’t phys­i­cally at­trac­tive enough to be sex­u­ally ha­rassed by him.

Bush used a vari­a­tion of the same joke on Grol­nick. She said she was work­ing on a pro­duc­tion of The Hunch­back of Notre Dame in Maine in Au­gust 2016, near the Bush fam­ily com­pound in Ken­neb­unkport, when Bush came back­stage dur­ing an in­ter­mis­sion and grabbed her back­side as they posed for a pic­ture.

Lind said the in­ci­dent in­volv­ing her hap­pened four years ago, when she met Bush while pro­mot­ing a his­tor­i­cal tele­vi­sion show she was work­ing on. She said he ‘‘sex­u­ally as­saulted’’ her as she stood next to him dur­ing a photo op.

Lind said Bar­bara Bush ‘‘rolled her eyes as if to say ‘Not again’,’’ when she saw what hap­pened. Lind also said that a se­cu­rity guard later told her that she shouldn’t have stood next to Bush.

Bush is sched­uled to join his son and fel­low for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush to throw the cer­e­mo­nial first pitch be­fore game five of base­ball’s World Se­ries to­mor­row in Hous­ton, Texas.

REUTERS

Bsetelling novelist Christina Baker Kline says Ge­orge H W Bush in­ap­pro­pri­ately touched her at a fundraising event in 2014.

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