The speculation started late Monday, when news outlets began reporting that a daughter of Robert Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, had posted a photo on Facebook of herself and Bush, the 41st president. “The President told me he’s voting for Hillary!!” reads the caption in the since-deleted post.
In response to the Facebook post, George H.W. Bush spokesman Jim McGrath neither confirmed nor denied the former president would vote for Clinton.
“The vote President Bush will cast as a private citizen in some 50 days will be just that: a private vote cast in some 50 days,” McGrath told media outlets. “He is not commenting on the presidential race in the interim.”
As the news spread early Tuesday morning, McGrath took to Twitter to warn reporters against reporting how Bush will vote, saying it was unclear whether anyone could verify Kennedy Townsend’s account. “Still checking, keep your powder dry,” McGrath wrote.
Speculation flared again hours later, when CNN reported that Bush did indeed say he plans to vote for Clinton. The TV network said Bush made the comment “during a receiving line for board members of the bipartisan Points of Light Foundation when Bush was speaking to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.”
McGrath did not entirely confirm that account.
“He absolutely did NOT announce anything to a group of any size,” McGrath wrote in an email to The Texas Tribune. “It was a private conversation with (Kennedy Townsend) during a Points of Light photo receiving line. No one else at Points of Light heard him mention Secretary Clinton’s name.”
Bush voting for Clinton would not be entirely surprising. He and other members of his famous family have largely refused to get behind Trump, who savaged former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the primaries.
Shortly after Trump became the presumptive nominee in May, both Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush, announced they had no plans to endorse the billionaire. “At age 91, President Bush is retired from politics,” McGrath said at the time.
There is at least one exception in the family, though. Land Commissioner George P. Bush said last month that it was time for Texas Republicans to get over the primaries and help elect Trump, the man who defeated his father.
Read the Tribune’s related coverage:
- Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who has not endorsed Donald Trump, is now asking Texas Republicans to support the Republican presidential nominee.
- For the first time since his own presidency, George H.W. Bush is planning to stay silent in the race for the Oval Office — and the younger former president Bush plans to stay silent as well.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.