Bush Sr faces fresh groping allegations

A Michigan woman accused former president George H.W. Bush (left) of groping her in 1992. Senator Al Franken (above) was photographed groping a former model while she was asleep.
A Michigan woman accused former president George H.W. Bush (above) of groping her in 1992.
A Michigan woman accused former president George H.W. Bush (left) of groping her in 1992. Senator Al Franken (above) was photographed groping a former model while she was asleep.
Senator Al Franken (above) was photographed groping a former model while she was asleep.PHOTO: REUTERS

It is the first time a woman accuses him of groping while he was US president

NEW YORK • Former United States president George H.W. Bush is facing new allegations from a Michigan woman who accused him of touching her inappropriately while he was in office.

In an exclusive interview with CNN on Thursday, the 55-year-old woman said she was attending a fund-raising event for Mr Bush's re-election campaign in Dearborn, Michigan, in April 1992, with her father when the former president grabbed her rear during a photo op. She has asked that her name not be published to avoid unwanted media attention.

Her story, which is 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 last year, is significant because it is the first time a woman has come forward to accuse Mr Bush of unwanted touching while he was in office. "We got closer together for a photo and it was like 'Holy crap!'" she said, describing the moment Mr 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. According to the CNN, she said she rationalised the moment to herself back then by saying they were moving closer together for the photo and so "it was probably an accident".

However, recent groping allegations against the former president, now 93 and in a wheelchair, made her rethink that incident.

She told CNN: "All the focus has been on 'he's old', but he wasn't old when it happened to me. I've been debating what to do about it."

Mr Bush's spokesman, Mr Jim McGrath, has declined to comment on the latest allegation, CNN said.

In response to the allegations reported last month, most of which allegedly occurred in the last few years, Mr 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," he 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 apologises most sincerely."

Actress Heather Lind wrote last month that Mr Bush touched her inappropriately a few years ago as they were posing for a photograph, CNN said.

Another actress, Ms Jordana Grolnick, had also described an incident last year in which she said she was groped by Mr Bush.

The allegations against Mr Bush came amid a series of sexual misconduct scandals that have been roiling Hollywood.

Last week, the scandals broadened into the world of politics, after Mr Roy Moore, a Republican US Senate candidate in Alabama was also accused of having sexual contact with teenage girls decades ago. Mr Moore, 70, has denied the accusations and said he was the victim of a witch hunt.

On Thursday, Democratic Senator Al Franken came under fire after he was photographed in 2006 groping sports broadcaster and former model Leeann Tweeden's breasts while she was asleep.

He was also accused of kissing her without her consent, Reuters reported.

President Donald Trump reacting to the scandal on Thursday, saying the picture "is really bad, speaks a thousand words".

Mr Franken has apologised and said he does not remember that second incident in the same way, but he now faces a Senate ethics investigation that could see him fined, stripped of committee posts or even expelled.

"I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann," he said in a statement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2017, with the headline 'Bush Sr faces fresh groping allegations'. Print Edition | Subscribe