At least three women have accused former President George H.W. Bush of inappropriately touching them as of Friday.
Actress Jordana Grolnick, actress Heather Lind and a third woman who wishes to remain anonymous outlined similar scenarios in incidents that they say occurred over the last few years: During a photo-op, they say the former president shared a dirty joke and then grabbed them inappropriately.
“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,” Grolnick recalled from her meeting with Bush at a theater in Maine.
Lind shared her encounter, which she called a sexual assault, in a now-deleted Instagram post.
“He didn’t shake my hand,” she wrote. “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.”
The third woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told CNN she met Bush at a VIP event in Houston and said he squeezed her behind “a couple times.”
“It was unmistakable,” she said. “It was not just a pat. It was a serious squeeze.”
Bush’s spokesman, Jim McGrath, acknowledged the incidents, and directed CNN to a statement released on Wednesday.
“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,” Wednesday’s statement reads. “Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”
McGrath also confirmed to CNN that he was referring to the “David Cop-a-Feel” joke mentioned by the three women when writing the statement.
Reactions to the revelations about Bush 41 have been mixed, with some coming to the former president’s defense and attributing his actions to his age and physical illness; Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for the past several years and suffers from a form of Parkinson’s disease.
The incidents have raised questions, also, about the role of his family in preventing such contacts from occurring.
CNN spoke with neuroscience and brain imaging expert Doctor Daniel Amen, who does not treat Bush, to ask about how the former president’s condition might affect his behavior.
Amen said illnesses like his can lead to unusual behavior.
“It can also affect the front part of your brain — things like judgment, forethought, impulse control and people who have never acted badly or inappropriately their whole life, all of the sudden they start to do things that are out of character,” Amen said.
He added that it is noteworthy that the incidents allegedly happened late in his life.
However, Grolnick said she doesn’t think that excuses Bush’s behavior.
“No, I don’t think that excuses it, and I don’t think that explains it,” she said. “I think in order for us to have progress and for women to reach the true equality we deserve to have, we need to stop making excuses and letting that be OK.”