Bush sent his regrets in a letter to Trump, dated Jan. 10, citing his health as the reason for missing the ceremony.
“My doctor says if I sit outside in January, it likely will put me six feet under. Same for Barbara,” Bush wrote in his letter, which was made public on Wednesday. “So I guess we’re stuck in Texas.”
The former president is 92; the former first lady is 91.
Shortly before the letter was released Wednesday, Bush spokesman Jim McGrath confirmed that the former president had been hospitalized in Houston since Saturday due to shortness of breath. He issued a subsequent update detailing that the former president was suffering an “acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia.” Barbara Bush was admitted to the hospital Wednesday as well for fatigue and coughing.
George H.W. Bush is the only living president who will not be in attendance on Inauguration Day. His son George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Bill (and Hillary) Clinton all plan to be there. As is the custom, outgoing President Barack Obama will also participate in the transition.
Following news of his grandfather’s hospitalization, George P. Bush, older son of Jeb and the current Texas land commissioner, reportedly said that he will no longer attend Trump’s inauguration as scheduled on account of his grandfather’s health.
While Bush Sr. is passing on the event for health reasons, more than 50 Democratic lawmakers are boycotting the inauguration on unequivocally political grounds.
“I will not be celebrating or honoring an incoming president who rode racism, sexism, xenophobia and bigotry to the White House,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said last week.
The story has been updated with more information about the senior Bushes’ current health and their grandson’s plans.