Did Arnold Schwarzenegger Once Break Barbara Bush’s Leg?


Arnold Schwarzenegger sat down with Kelly Clarkson on her NBC daytime talk show this week, where the host asked him about a story that’s been floating around for decades, in which the 76-year-old former governor allegedly broke former First Lady Barbara Bush’s leg in a skiing accident.

And while Schwarzenegger was all too happy to oblige, there have been conflicting reports as to the accuracy of the story.

“Well, George Bush invited me when I was the Chairman of the President’s Council [on Physical Fitness and Sports],” Schwarzenegger told Clarkson. “He would invite me always to Camp David, this was 1991, ’92, when he was president. He would invite me up there literally like every month.” 

He said that Bush “loved” hanging out with him and working out together, and that they two would throw horseshoes and go running together.

“And one time I was up there in the winter,” he recalled. “And so, he said to me, ‘I have this great sled,’ which was not really a sled, it was a toboggan. And so with sleds, you can steer the sled with your feet, but that one I couldn’t really steer.

“So we go down the hill in the snow. He’s sitting behind me and he says, ‘You steer.’ And I did not know how to steer,” Schwarzenegger continued. “So I mean, it’s just going faster and faster, and all of a sudden we’re approaching this tree. And all of a sudden Barbara comes up behind the tree, and then we just ran into her leg.

“And so poor Barbara Bush, she had to go to the hospital afterwards,” he explained. “She had, you know, a sprained leg and she got a cast on it and the whole thing. But I have to say that they were very gracious about it and the way they took it. And, you know, I apologized. I said, ‘I feel really bad.'”

“Nobody has this story, it’s incredible,” Clarkson remarked, in a statement that may be even more accurate than she intended.

Schwarzenegger also wrote about the incident in his 2012 memoir, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story.

“The president and I came down the hill too fast and crashed into Barbara, and she ended up in the hospital with a broken leg,” he wrote on page 397, according to CNN. “I still have the photo President Bush sent me afterward.”

U.S. President George Bush takes a toboggan ride with Austrian actor Arnold Schwarzenegger at Camp David. 

Getty Images

Was Arnold Schwarzenegger really responsible for the accident?

But while Bush did indeed break her leg in a 1991 sledding accident, and Schwarzenegger was reportedly present on the trip, the media at the time—including both the New York Times and Washington Post—claim that she broke her leg while actually sledding down an icy slope on a saucer sled and crashed into a tree.

According to Bush’s press secretary, Anna Perez, the First Lady told her that the president started yelling “Bail out! Bail out!” when he saw her going down the hill. “She doesn’t know why she didn’t bail out,” Perez told reporters at the time. “She just held on and the next thing she knew, there was the tree.”

Likewise, Bush’s son, Neil Bush, was asked about Schwarzenegger’s version of events during a 2018 appearance on CNN Newsroom, around the last time the story was circulating. 

“About the whole notion of the crash and your, you know, mom breaking her leg, so is he saying that he led to the breaking of your mom’s leg, or did she break her leg in a different way?” CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield asked. “‘Cause there are different stories out there. What do you recall?”

“Well, she broke the leg running into a—I wasn’t there, but she broke the leg running into a tree,” Bush claimed.

It makes for a wild story—whether Schwarzenegger was responsible or not. Sadly, Bush passed away earlier in 2018, so if there’s a different story out there, she took it to her grave with her.

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