Different woman, same joke. A third person, this one an author, has come forward to detail how George HW Bush groped her during a photo op. Christina Baker Kline writes in Slate about her encounter with Bush at a literacy fundraiser in Houston in 2014. As she and her husband flanked Bush, in a wheelchair, the former president asked if she’d like to know the name of his favorite book. She replied yes as the photographer was getting ready to shoot. “Bush put his arm around me, low on my back,” she writes. “His comic timing was impeccable. ‘David Cop-a-feel,’ he said, and squeezed my butt, hard, just as the photographer snapped the photo.” (Kline provides the image with the Slate piece, writing that it shows her “struggling to keep the smile on my face” as Bush laughs at his joke.)
She told her husband what happened as they were being driven away, and the female driver turned to them and said, “I do trust you will be … discreet.” The comment rattled Kline because it suggested this had happened before, and Bush’s staff was by now used to protecting him. But what is especially “galling” to Kline, author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World, is that three male authors were at the same event and, to her knowledge, were not groped. Bush “made clear to me that because I am a woman, I can be objectified, sexualized, reduced to a body part.” Bush’s office referred Slate to the president’s previous apology, in which a spokesman says that Bush’s hands are often low on a person’s waist in such situations because he’s in a wheelchair, and that he tells the same general joke to put people at ease. Read Kline’s full piece.