George H.W. Bush’s affair with his assistant led to his 1992 presidential loss to Bill Clinton after Hillary made the liaison public in a bombshell Vanity Fair interview.
Bush’s affair with blonde beauty Jennifer Fitzgerald was rumored in 1974 when the soon-to-be-president served as chief of the Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China.
The affair led to Bush’s wife Barbara considering suicide and Bush’s mother Dorothy Walker Bush, the formidable family matriarch, wasn’t happy either, tearing into her son to ‘fix it’ or risk his political future, a new book reveals.
It appears Dorothy’s warning should have been heeded, because two decades later Hillary Clinton‘s very public reveal helped cost Bush a second term.
The details are included in ‘Grace & Steel: Dorothy, Barbara, Laura, and the Women of the Bush Dynasty’ by J. Randy Taraborrelli, who has previously written biographies about Jackie Kennedy and Beyonce among others.
Bush is seen sitting beside his assistant Jennifer Fitzgerald. The pair were rumored to be romantically involved in the 70s and the affair became public two decades later thanks to Hillary Clinton. Wife Barbara is seen sitting behind them
Hillary told about the affair in a Vanity Fair interview, which is believed to have cost Bush the 1992 presidential election. Bill Clinton seen shaking hands with Bush in 1995
Hillary said in her Vanity Fair interview that she was having tea with Ann Cox Chambers, chair of Atlanta Newspapers Inc at the time, who told her: ‘Everybody knows about George Bush…the establishment, regardless of party, sticks together. They’re gonna circle the wagons on Jennifer and all these other people.’
Dorothy Bush, who was 91 at the time, said: ‘This is all Hillary’s fault’ because she had ‘stirred up’ the controversy.
The details are included in ‘Grace & Steel: Dorothy, Barbara, Laura, and the Women of the Bush Dynasty ‘ by J. Randy Taraborrelli, our Tuesday, March 2
The timing of the interview was hypocritical, but did the job. Bill Clinton had been accused of having an affair with Gennifer Flowers in January 1992 – the Vanity Fair interview came out in May of that year.
Bush angrily denied it but it was a factor in him losing to Bill Clinton and making him a one-term President.
Only then did Fitzgerald and Bush finally go their separate ways. A source said that they ‘just stopped being in each other’s lives’. Bush left a message and she didn’t call back, and that was it.
Dorothy warned the future president decades before that the ‘stories will follow you forever’ about his relationship with Jennifer Fitzgerald.
When Bush protested that ‘it’s not what it looks like,’ his mother batted it away and said: ‘Phooey. It’s always what it looks like.’
The confrontation happened while Dorothy was visiting Bush in 1974 in China where he was the chief of the Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China.
Dorothy’s warning proved prescient as Bush refused to banish Fitzgerald from his orbit, even when he became President.
The book, which is out on Tuesday on St Martin’s Press, says that Bush hired Fitzgerald to be his ‘special assistant’ just before he left for China as the country’s liaison, a post awarded to him by Gerald Ford.
At 42, Fitzgerald was seven years Bush’s junior and was born in England to a British military officer father and a mother from a wealthy Boston family.
She was pretty and petite and had blond hair which she wore in a short and stylish fashion – and caught Bush’s eye.
Before Bush left for Beijing in the Fall of 1974, he and Barbara had a ‘heated argument’ about Fitzgerald and he insisted there was nothing going on.
A month after they arrived Barbara still wasn’t comfortable with it and decided she needed some space so she returned to the US, leaving Bush alone with Fitzgerald in China.
It would be the first Christmas that Bush and his wife would spend apart in 37 years – and it was when Bush supposedly cheated on her.
Taraborrelli quotes an unnamed source as saying that it happened on a two week trip Bush and Fitzgerald took which began the day after Barbara left, with a first stop in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The affair is said to have contributed to Bush’s wife Barbara considering suicide because she was so depressed
Dorothy Walker Bush warned her son George H.W. Bush that the rumors about his relationship with assistant Jennifer Fitzgerald would ‘follow you forever,’ according to a new book. Bush is seen with Dorothy in 1983
The source said: ‘I think that’s where it happened. Prior to Hawaii it had just been a flirtation.
‘In Hawaii I believe it turned into an affair, first the Sheraton Waikiki and then at an apartment Bush leased in (the neighborhood) Kahala.’
The source said that despite Bush being balding with a receding hairline ‘he had power’ and having served as US ambassador to the UN and chair of the Republican National Committee his career was on the rise.
After Hawaii the lovers went to Tokyo for the rest of their work trip and returned to China in December.
Thousands of miles away in the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, Dorothy began to hear the rumors about the affair.
Dorothy’s caretaker, who appears under a pseudonym ‘Virginia’ to protect her identity, said Dorothy initially thought it was ‘completely preposterous’ but after speaking to Barbara she didn’t get a straight answer.
Taraborrelli writes that Dorothy realized you have to ‘nip these things in the bud’ and moved up her pre-planned trip to China by a week to speak to her son face to face.
Virginia said that after a few days of acclimatizing herself, Dorothy had the chance to see her son with Fitzgerald and ‘knew what was going on’ immediately.
Virginia said: ‘I did too, you could sense it.’
Virginia said: ‘Mrs Bush (Dorothy) was clear. ‘Fix it,’ she told (her son), ‘otherwise, these stories will follow you forever.’
Bush said: ‘It’s complicated.’
His mother said: ‘Phooey. Is that really the hill you want to die on, son?’ Bush said: ‘It’s not what it looks like.’ His mother fired back: ‘It’s always what it looks like.’
During another conversation later on Bush tried to claim to his mother that Fitzgerald was just his secretary.
Dorothy scolded him and said: ‘That’s weak George. Don’t be weak.’
Virginia said: ‘I sense it wasn’t just his marriage she was worried about. It was also any political ramifications down the line.’
Dorothy, the formidable family matriarch, (pictured) tore into her son over the affair and told him to ‘fix it’ or risk his political future. The confrontation happened while Dorothy was visiting Bush in 1974 in China where he was the chief of the Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China
Bush did tell Fitzgerald it was over and that it had been a ‘very bad idea.’
On the flight home Dorothy thought she had done her part and said: ‘All’s well that ends well.’
But Bush did not fire Fitzgerald and when Barbara returned to China to find her still working in her husband’s office she was shocked.
Barbara made a conscious effort to move past the affair but she still hated Fitzgerald, once quipping to a friend that ‘I hate her presumption’ when they happened to run into her at a restaurant.
Upon their return to the US at the completion of his posting, Bush took up a new job as director of the CIA but Barbara fell into a deep depression.
Taraborrelli writes that she would consider slamming her car into oncoming vehicles because she felt so despairing about the world.
He offers a number of reasons for her gloom: she had felt ‘invisible’ in her marriage and the rise of feminism had made her feel she hadn’t made enough choices for herself.
Or maybe she was still concerned about Fitzgerald who Bush had refused to cut ties with.
Two months earlier he had taken her to meet Frank Sinatra at the home of his brother, Jonathan Bush, without telling Barbara.
Sinatra wanted to help the CIA and Bush ‘couldn’t resist’ meeting him, even though he didn’t take the offer seriously.
Toma DiBella, a friend of Sinatra’s who was present, said: ‘I had my eye on this dame sitting next to Bush. Attractive, middle aged, doting on his every word, nice enough, pretty, she kept reaching over and touching his hand, making eyes at him.
‘Bush said she was his secretary. Didn’t have no steno pad with her, though.’
Barbara found out the next day and was furious.
She would later recall of this time in her life that she was ‘very depressed, lonely and unhappy.’
Taraborrelli writes that Barbara was suffering from a ‘textbook case of clinical depression’ as well as anxiety, one of several bouts in her life.
A relative recalled Barbara having tea with her around this time and she suddenly became emotional and said that she felt as if she was ‘surrounded by black cotton’.
Taraborrelli writes that Barbara suffered from a ‘textbook case of clinical depression’ during the affair as well as anxiety, one of several bouts in her life
The author delves into the tensions between Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan when their husbands were Vice President and President respectively
Elsewhere in ‘Grace & Steel’, Taraborrelli delves into the tensions between Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan when their husbands were Vice President and President respectively.
Nancy ‘had it in for’ Barbara because she considered her a rival and Barbara felt the same because Nancy reminded her of her domineering mother Pauline
Their relationship got so bad that Nancy snubbed Barbara openly, once walking away from her mid sentence during an event in the White House State Room.
Barbara once told an assistant: ‘She’s my mother all over again. Look at the way she stares at me. No one has looked at me like that since I was 12.’
Taraborrelli goes into extensive detail about just how mean Pauline was and he writes that he made Barbara so paranoid about her weight she smoked for 25 years to keep her figure slim.
Pauline would tell her: ‘Eat it today and wear it tomorrow’ and once said when Barbara put on a yellow dress to be a bridesmaid: ‘My god, you look like a school bus in that thing.’
In school Barbara became a bully like her mother and would call her group of girls to inform them who they wouldn’t speak to the next day.
One friend called it ‘dreadful’ and said Barbara ‘controlled’ them all.
When Barbara was sent home with a note saying she’d been mean to other girls her mother chased her round the house with a wire hanger and when she tripped and fell over, beat her.
‘Grace & Steel’ describes Barbara and Bush’s utter heartbreak over the death of their three-year-old daughter Robin Bush in 1953 from leukemia – the family are pictured without Robin
George and Barbara Bush pose for a picture with their children (left to right) Dorothy, Neil, Marvin, Jeb and George in 1980 – the year before he took office
Barbara later told some friends: ‘Thank goodness you two have a mother who is there for you all the time. I didn’t have that and boy did I suffer. You have no idea how much I suffered.’
‘Grace & Steel’ describes Barbara and Bush’s utter heartbreak over the death of their three-year-old daughter Robin Bush in 1953 from leukemia.
Barbara banned anyone who couldn’t contain their emotions from visiting the hospital so as not to upset the little girl.
But Bush could ‘barely stay in the room for more than a few minutes’ before he welled up.
Taraborrelli writes that Barbara told him: ‘If you cry, you have to leave.’ He obeyed but one time after Robin convulsed he cried and Barbara told him: ‘Don’t you dare. Not here.’
After Robin died all the grief that Barbara had kept bottled up burst out of her and was ‘in the grips of such despair she could barely function.’
It ‘came upon her like a fierce storm, brutally washing over her’, the book says.
Barbara told a friend: ‘I can’t do this anymore. I want out of this’, suggesting she was considering suicide again.
The book also goes over the rocky road to acceptance by Columba, the Mexican girl that Bush’s son Jeb decided to marry when she was 19. Jeb and Columba are pictured at George H.W. Bush’s casket in 2018
The book also goes over the rocky road to acceptance of Columba, the Mexican woman that Bush’s son Jeb married when she was 19.
When Jeb told Barbara she told him: ‘Sorry but that’s not going to happen’. Bush’s response was: ‘Oh, hell no.’
Columba gradually won them over but caused a political headache for her husband in 1999 when he was governor of Florida and she was his first lady.
After flying back from France she landed at Atlanta airport and claimed that she had $500 of items to declare.
But when dozens of receipts fell out of her passport and customs agents matched them up to the items in her bags they realized she had bought a lot more.
Columba was fined $4,100 and the story was leaked to the press immediately.
Taraborrelli writes that the incident was the result of years of tensions over money between Jeb and Columba because he put her on a monthly budget because he was so tight with his cash.
Jeb ‘treated her as if she was always about to bankrupt them’ even though his business affairs had made him a multimillionaire.