Author Christina Baker Kline Says George H.W. Bush Groped Her During a Photo Op

Christina Baker Kline. Photo: Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for East Hampton Library

As people continue to reexamine the actions and attitudes of men in power in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, former president George H.W. Bush has fallen under scrutiny as three women have come forward claiming that he groped and sexually harassed them at photo ops. Novelist Christina Baker Kline, who wrote Orphan Train, wrote a detailed account of her experience with the former president at a photo op in 2014 for Slate. In it, she describes being invited to a Barbara Bush Foundation Family Literacy fundraiser alongside two male authors and a male journalist. As the group gathered for photos, she claims that Bush pulled her aside, complimented her looks, whispered, “You wanna know my favorite book?” and when she leaned close to hear him, put his arm around her lower back said, “David Cop-a-feel” and “squeezed my butt, hard, just as the photographer snapped the photo.” Kline’s reaction appears in the official photograph, alongside Bush laughing at his joke, “like a mischievous boy, I thought at the time,” Kline says. When she told the story to her husband in a car driven by a friend of the Bush family on the way home, Kline claims that the driver “leaned back and looked at us. ‘I do trust you will be … discreet,’ she said.” Reacting to the driver, “I thought: She has heard this before. The people around President Bush are accustomed to doing damage control,” Kline writes. “There must be many of us, I remember thinking. And now I know there are.”

Bush spokesman Jim McGrath has responded to allegations with a statement that reads, “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. 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 apologizes most sincerely.”

Author Says George H.W. Bush Groped Her During a Photo Op