the In an Instagram post early on Tuesday, actress Heather Lind alleged that President George H. W. Bush groped her during a photo-op in 2014. Lind wrote in her now-deleted post that Bush Sr. "touched me from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side." On Tuesday morning, Bush Sr.'s spokesperson, Jim McGrath, released a statement in response:
President Bush would never — under any circumstance — intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Miss Lind.
Lind had written in her Instagram post that she was "disturbed" to see a photo of Presidents Obama and Bush Sr. shaking hands at the One America Appeal event over the weekend aimed at raising funds for hurricane relief efforts. Lind noted that she felt "pride and reverence" toward many of the former presidents, but her alleged experience with Bush Sr. was different.
During a promo for the TV show TURN: Washington's Spies, set during the American Revolution, Lind, who starred on the show, claimed that Bush Sr. touched her from behind and told her a dirty joke. "And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again," she reportedly wrote, adding that his wife, Barbara Bush, "rolled her eyes as if to say 'not again'."
According to Lind, Bush Sr.'s security staff at the time told her she shouldn't have stood next to him.
The discussion about sexual assault and harassment has become a major issue since news broke about the decades worth of allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein has repeatedly denied that any of those encounters were non-consensual; he has been fired from the company he co-founded and dropped from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
As actress after actress went public with Weinstein's alleged behavior toward them, women both within and outside of Hollywood began speaking publicly about the alleged sexual harassment and assault they've endured from men, whether in professional settings (some have dubbed it the Harvey Weinstein effect) or in their personal lives. The hashtag #MeToo took off on social media as more women spoke about their experiences with harassment and assault.
Lind used the hashtag in her post on Tuesday, too. "I thank President Barack Obama for the gesture of respect he made toward George H. W. Bush for the sake of our country," she wrote in reference to the photo of their handshake, "but I do not respect him. #metoo."
It's likely that Lind's allegation against Bush Sr. will not be the last claim against a high-profile figure in the coming weeks. As social norms evolve, the kind of behavior from men that was brushed off in the past — like inappropriate, non-consensual touching, or stalking — is now widely recognized for what it is: sexual assault and harassment.
But the progress in how we speak about sexual misconduct that women face has plenty of detractors, too. Many people on social media, for example, have jumped to Bush Sr.'s defense, citing his age and frailness, among other things.
In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Alexander Rose, the author of Washington's Spies (which Lind's show is based on) wrote that Lind's alleged account was 100 percent accurate — and he knew, he added, because he was there. "It was not a 'joke' gone awry," Rose retorted in an apparent reference to Bush Sr.'s statement noting that it was an "attempt at humor."
The answer to the question "do we believe women?" appears to be moving toward "yes, we do"; Weinstein and other powerful men likely wouldn't have faced repercussions otherwise. But the criticism directed at Lind, and many women who go public with their alleged experiences, points to how many people simply don't believe women — even though they have nothing to gain from publicizing these allegations.