Washington - Former president George HW Bush apologised after actress Heather Lind said he groped her as they posed for a picture at an event a few years ago - and that his wife, Barbara Bush, saw it happen.
In a brief response to the allegations, which Lind detailed in a recent Instagram post that she has since deleted, a spokesman for the 93-year-old former president did not explicitly deny Lind's account but said in a statement: "President Bush would never - under any circumstance - intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologises if his attempt at humour offended Ms Lind."
Bush's spokesman released a fuller statement on Wednesday evening that acknowledged Bush touched Lind:
"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 apologises most sincerely."
Lind said the incident happened when she met Bush four years ago during a promotion of a historical television show she was working on.
Lind played Anna Strong in AMC's Revolutionary War-era drama, "Turn: Washington Spies," which premiered in 2014. She said Bush "sexually assaulted" her as she stood next to him during a photo op.
"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, he touched me again," Lind wrote on Instagram.
Lind said Barbara Bush "rolled her eyes as if to say 'not again' " when she saw what happened. Jim McGrath, spokesman for the 41st president, said the former first lady has no comment.
Lind also said that a security guard later told her that she shouldn't have stood next to Bush.
The 34-year-old actress is the latest to accuse a prominent figure of inappropriate sexual conduct.
Dozens of actresses have gone public with allegations that disgraced Hollywood producer and former studio executive Harvey Weinstein either sexually harassed or assaulted them. Explosive reports by the New York Times and the New Yorker detailed previously undisclosed allegations of harassment and criminal sexual abuse that spanned several years. The Post found three more similar cases.
Millions of women and men have since taken to Facebook and Twitter, using #MeToo as they post their own experiences with sexual harassment or assault. Lind also used the hashtag on her Instagram post.
"What comforts me is that I too can use my power, which isn't so different from a president really," she wrote. "I can enact positive change. I can actually help people. I can be a symbol of my democracy. I can refuse to call him president, and call out other abuses of power when I see them."
Lind said she decided to talk about the incident after seeing a photo of Bush and former president Barack Obama shaking hands at an event last weekend. The two, along with three other ex-presidents, appeared at a benefit concert Saturday in Texas to raise money for hurricane victims.
"I found it disturbing because I recognise the respect ex-presidents are given for having served," Lind said. "And I feel pride and reverence toward many of the men in the photo."
It's unclear when exactly Lind shared the Instagram post or when and why she decided to delete it.
Lind's manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.