Pennsylvania city council candidate: George H.W. Bush made inappropriate touch in 2004

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Liz Allen alleged in a Facebook post that she was touched inappropriately by the former president in 2004.

By Kevin FlowersGatehouse Media Pennsylvania

ERIE, Pa. — Liz Allen, a Democratic nominee for Erie City Council, has alleged in a Facebook post that she was touched inappropriately by former President George H.W. Bush in 2004 when Bush was in Erie to attend a Manufacturer and Business Association event.

Allen is the fourth woman to make an accusation against Bush this week. A Bush representative on Wednesday issued an apology and said that the nation’s 41st president, in the past, “has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner.” That statement was issued after an actress posted on her Instagram account that Bush had touched her “from behind” while she posed for a photo with him.

Allen, 66, said in an interview that she was not “traumatized” by the 2004 incident in Erie, and at the time she didn’t feel the need to “speak up” about it.

“But I didn’t like it,” Allen said. “It did not rise to the level of assault, but it was in my [personal] space.

“I really hesitated,” Allen said about publishing her Facebook post Thursday. “I didn’t want people thinking I was jumping on some bandwagon. But I wanted people to know it happened to me.”

Allen is a retired Erie Times-News journalist who is among four Democrats and one Republican seeking four open seats on City Council in the Nov. 7 municipal election. She led all candidates in vote totals in the May 16 municipal primary.

Allen on Thursday posted on her personal Facebook page a status update that started with #metoo, a hashtag that goes back a decade and that has received renewed attention since actress Alyssa Milano urged women to use it if they have been sexually harassed or assaulted in the past.

Allen’s post included a link to a story about actress Heather Lind’s allegation against Bush in a now-deleted Instagram post. Lind claimed that Bush touched her from behind four years ago while she posed for a photo with him.

Bush’s spokesman, Jim McGrath, issued a statement to CNN on Wednesday that “President Bush would never — under any circumstance — intentionally cause anyone distress, and he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Ms. Lind.”

In a second statement later Wednesday, McGrath made reference to the fact Bush suffers from Parkinson’s disease and is confined to a wheelchair.

“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,” McGrath said. “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,” McGrath said.

Allen’s Facebook post, in part, reads: “#metoo. Guess what? He did this to me when we posed for a photo after the Manufacturer and Business Association dinner, after the Pat Locco scholarship was awarded.”

Bush spoke at the Manufacturer and Business Association’s annual dinner on June 30, 2004. Locco is Allen’s late husband, and she attended the event.

“I think it was 2004; I can dig and find the exact date. He was NOT in a wheelchair then. And he gave a great talk at the dinner that night,” Allen wrote.

“It was cool to be in a photo with a former president. But I remember feeling uncomfortable with that pat or touch on my behind,” Allen wrote. “It didn’t traumatize me. I didn’t need counseling.

“I told a couple of friends about it later, but I didn’t make a big deal about it then and I’m not making a big deal about it now. It just felt inappropriate. I hadn’t thought about the pat on the butt until this story broke.”

McGrath was not immediately available for comment about Allen’s accusation.

Allen wrote in her post that after she saw a tweet from journalist Andrea Mitchell that was critical of Lind, “I wanted to tell Mitchell that it happened to me, a hometown columnist in Erie, a few years ago.”

The Associated Press has reported that since Lind’s claim, another actress, Jordana Grolnick, said Bush grabbed her buttocks during a group photo in 2016 at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine. She told Deadspin that Bush quipped that his favorite magician is “David Cop-a-Feel” and grabbed her. She said Barbara Bush responded, “He’s going to get himself put in jail.”

Author Christina Baker Kline also wrote in Slate magazine that Bush asked her “You wanna know my favorite book?” then touched her and said “David Cop-a-Feel” at an event in 2014.

Bush was president from 1989 to 1993.

Kevin Flowers is a reporter for the Erie (Pa.) Times-News.

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