First on CNN: New George H.W. Bush accuser says he groped her during 1992 re-election campaign
Posted November 15, 2017 6:36 p.m. EST
(CNN) — Former President George H.W. Bush is facing new allegations from a Michigan woman who said he touched her inappropriately while he was in office at an event in April 1992.
The woman, now 55, spoke exclusively with CNN and said she was attending a fundraiser for Bush's re-election campaign in Dearborn, Michigan, with her father when the president grabbed her rear end during a photo-op.
"We got closer together for a family photo and it was like 'Holy crap!'" she said, describing the moment Bush touched her buttocks. "It was like a gentle squeeze."
In the moment, the woman said, she just smiled for the camera. There were people all around, including US Secret Service, but she does not believe anyone else noticed. She said she rationalized the moment to herself back then by saying they were moving closer together for the photo and so "it was probably an accident."
Recent reports about groping allegations against the former president, now 93 and in a wheelchair, made her rethink that incident.
"All the focus has been on 'He's old.' OK, but he wasn't old when it happened to me," she told CNN. "I've been debating what to do about it."
Her story -- remarkably similar to the accounts shared by at least six other women who said the former president groped them during photo-ops between 2003 and 2016 -- is significant, because it is the first time a woman has come forward to accuse Bush of unwanted touching while he was in office.
This latest Bush accuser asked that her name not be published to avoid unwanted media attention. However, CNN has spoken with the woman's ex-husband and her best friend, both of whom she told of the incident soon after it occurred.
"I remember her coming home and her saying he (Bush) said (to her father), 'Is that your daughter?' or 'Who's that with you?' and her dad said, 'It's my daughter,' and he said, 'Well, get her in the picture,'" the woman's ex-husband said. "She tried to write it off as 'move in closer' -- but no, it wasn't. The hand definitely was across the butt. It wasn't across the waist."
The woman shared with CNN the photograph of the moment during which she said Bush grabbed her, along with the transcript of his address to the Dearborn fundraiser and recent texts from her ex-husband and a co-worker referring to the 1992 incident in the wake of the groping allegations against Bush that surfaced in October.
Her best friend noted that the woman had a "strange look on her face in the photograph" and she asked her whether that was the moment the president grabbed her.
"I said, 'Is that when it happened?' And she said 'Yes,'" the friend said.
Bush spokesman Jim McGrath declined to comment on this latest allegation.
Actress Heather Lind, who appeared in the AMC series "Turn: Washington's Spies," wrote in October that Bush touched her inappropriately a few years ago as they were posing for a photograph, and while she did not get into the specifics of the incident, she referred to it as a sexual assault.
"He didn't shake my hand. He touched me from behind his wheelchair with his wife, Barbara Bush, by his side and told me a dirty joke. And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again," Lind wrote in a now-deleted post on Instagram.
A second actress, Jordana Grolnick, described a 2016 incident in which she said she was groped by Bush.
"He came backstage to take a picture with a group of girls and he was in a wheelchair and he reached his hand around and said to the group ... 'Do you know who my favorite magician is?' And we all said, 'No, who?' and he said, 'David Cop-a-Feel,' and at that moment, I felt him grab my behind," she told CNN in an interview in October.
A third woman who wished to remain anonymous told CNN in October that she met Bush at a VIP event in Houston in 2015. She said he squeezed her buttocks "a couple times. It was unmistakable. It was not just a pat. It was a serious squeeze."
Best-selling author Christina Baker Kline wrote in Slate in October about being groped by the former president in April 2014 when she was invited to Houston as a guest author for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy fundraiser.
"I had this one moment with this ex-president. He beckons me over and says, 'You're a writer. Do you know what my favorite book is?' I thought, 'This is my one moment with this guy,'" she told CNN. I thought, 'I'm a writer and a reader, and this president is going to tell me his favorite book. What an honor.' I leaned forward thinking this is a moment to remember -- a moment of connection. The joke was on me."
Baker Kline, who said Bush told her a version of the "David Cop-a-Feel" joke as he groped her, had also been reluctant to share her story publicly. But like several of the women CNN spoke to, she was irritated by the explanations being put forward by Bush's team, which she said did not accurately represent what happened and were instead "twisting it around."
"It doesn't happen in a vacuum," she said. "Not every man does this, but if he does it, he usually does it more than once. Someone doesn't just grab a woman's butt out of the blue that hasn't done it before."
Pamela Kruger, a friend of Baker Kline, said the writer told her about the incident in 2016 when the sexual harassment allegations against then-Fox News chief Roger Ailes were emerging.
"What she wrote in Slate captured what she conveyed to me about the experience," Kruger told CNN.
In response to the allegations reported last month, most of which allegedly occurred in the last few years, McGrath issued a statement that cited the former president's age and physical condition.
"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," McGrath wrote. "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."
McGrath confirmed to CNN at the time that he was referring to the "David Cop-a-Feel" joke mentioned by four of the women who have made allegations against the former president when he wrote last month's statement.
Earlier this week, after allegations surfaced in Time magazine that the former president groped Roslyn Corrigan in 2003, when she was just 16 years old and he was not in a wheelchair, McGrath issued another statement.
"George Bush simply does not have it in his heart to knowingly cause anyone distress, and he again apologizes to anyone he offended during a photo op." he wrote.
The Michigan woman said those explanations bothered her.
"I was starting to get irritated, because they were trying to excuse it like he was just a doddering old man," she said. "He was a sitting president who was running for election."
"He gave a fairly lengthy speech that day and all the big heavy hitters were there, from the Detroit area," said the woman.
Former journalist Liz Allen, 66, shared a Facebook post in late October about a 2004 encounter during which, she said, Bush touched her inappropriately.
"Guess what? He did this to me when we posed for a photo after the Manufacturer and Business Association dinner," she wrote in the post.
"It was cool to be in a photo with a former president. But I remember feeling uncomfortable with that pat or touch on my behind. It didn't traumatize me. I didn't need counseling. I told a couple of friends about it later, but I didn't make a big deal about it then and I'm not making a big deal about it now. It just felt inappropriate," she wrote.
Allen told CNN she wanted to share her story because she wanted people to know "this happened before he was in a wheelchair."
"He wasn't feeble. He gave what I thought was a really good speech that night -- very statesmanlike," she said.
Allen's sister, who was visiting her in Erie, Pennsylvania, during that time, corroborated her story.
"She came home and said she took this photo with George Bush, which she still has," she said. "We kind of laughed at it at the time. We thought it was creepy."