A third woman has come forward accusing former President George H.W. Bush of groping her, and making the same joke that other women have reported, during a photo with the former President.
Author Cristina Baker Kline and her husband were invited to a fundraising event for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in 2014. She said when she was posing for a picture with Bush, he asked her if she wanted to know what his favorite book was.
She, of course, said yes to the former President, according to a personal essay she wrote that Slate published Thursday evening.
“David Cop-a-feel!” he said as he squeezed her behind and the photographer took the photo, she said, repeating the same joke that at least two other women have said he used when he groped them.
After the photo, Kline and her husband left the event and were driven back to their hotel by a friend of the Bush family, Kline said.
“Once we were on our way, I told David what had happened. I was still so surprised that it didn’t occur to me to keep it secret. His mouth fell open. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” she said, recalling the conversation with her husband. “Our driver, who was stopped at a light, sat there for a moment, then leaned back and looked at us. ‘I do trust you will be … discreet,’” she said.
Kline remembers thinking that the family friend’s comments made it clear that Bush had done this before.
Here’s an excerpt from her Slate piece:
“Now, with two women talking about the same behavior—even the same crude joke—I feel compelled to step forward. 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.
This is what’s most galling: I was at that event as a guest author, alongside three male authors. I was groped. As far as I know, they were not. What happened to me at a literary luncheon with a former president would never have happened to them. At the very moment when I was feeling honored to be recognized for my work and to raise money for this important organization that I believe in, President Bush made clear to me that because I am a woman, I can be objectified, sexualized, reduced to a body part.
In David Copperfield, Charles Dickens writes, “It’s in vain to recall the past, unless it works some influence upon the present.” That’s why I’m sharing this experience today. I wasn’t traumatized. I’m not angry. But it shouldn’t have happened. I hope all these stories that women are finally sharing about their experiences will begin to effect change.”
Two other women have said the former President groped them during a photo and made the same joke. A spokesperson for the Bush family issued the following statement after the second woman came forward.
“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.”
The accusations against the former President follow reports from women across the globe who are speaking out against sexual harassment and assault, sharing their personal stories and using the hashtag #metoo. The movement started after reports came out that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had been sexually assaulting and harassing more than 50 women for decades.