The office of former US President George H.W. Bush has responded to allegations he touched an actress inappropriately, declaring the gesture was intended to be “good-natured”.
On Tuesday, actress Heather Lind shared an Instagram post—which has since been deleted—alleging that Bush groped her four years ago.
"[W]hen I got the chance to meet George H. W. Bush four years ago to promote a historical television show I was working on, he sexually assaulted me while I was posing for a similar photo," she wrote, CNN reports.
"He didn't shake my hand. He touched me from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side. He told me a dirty joke. And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again."
Actress Jordana Grolnick also alleges that Bush groped her in August 2016. Grolnick says she met the former president during a photo opportunity in the intermission of a play she was in.
“We all circled around him and Barbara for a photo, and I was right next to him,” Grolnick told Deadspin.
“He reached his right hand around to my behind, and as we smiled for the photo he asked the group, ‘Do you want to know who my favorite magician is?’ As I felt his hand dig into my flesh, he said, ‘David Cop-a-Feel!’”
In response to Lind’s initial accusation, Bush’s spokesman, Jim McGrath, released a statement apologising for the encounter.
"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,” the statement explains.
"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.”
The statement concludes: "Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely."
The allegations follow on from the powerful #MeToo movement, which saw millions of women share their own experiences of being sexually harassed or assaulted.