Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada has repeatedly denied accusations he acted inappropriately with a young reporter at a charity event 18 years ago. On Friday, he said his accuser might have experienced their interaction differently.
“I do not feel that there was any inappropriate action of any type,” Trudeau said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s (CBC) Toronto radio station. “But, and this is the really important thing, it is not just my experience that matters in this.”
He added, “The way the same interaction can be experienced by different people is a really important thing to get our minds around.”
The accusation that Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister since 2015, groped the reporter when he was a schoolteacher and living in British Columbia appeared in 2000 in an unsigned editorial published by The Creston Valley Advance, a small newspaper in the province.
The editorial resurfaced in Frank, a Canadian political satire and gossip magazine, and a blogger who is a well-known critic of Trudeau gave it new prominence shortly before Trudeau was host to the Group of 7 summit meeting last month in Quebec. Breitbart, the far-right website, then picked up the editorial.
Several media outlets subsequently reported about the accusations.
The accusations have received modest attention in Canada except from the opposition Conservative Party, which has repeatedly accused Trudeau — a self-described feminist who recently removed a member of Parliament from his Cabinet for making lewd comments in a previous political role — of hypocrisy.
The incident took place when Trudeau attended the now-defunct Kokanee Summit Festival in Creston, B.C., to accept a donation for a charity to prevent deaths from avalanches. He had established the charity, with other members of his family, after the death of his brother two years earlier in an avalanche at a nearby park.
The editorial, published shortly afterward, said Trudeau had engaged in “inappropriately handling” one of its two reporters during the event.
“Didn’t he learn through his vast experiences in public life, that groping a strange young woman isn’t the handbook of proper etiquette?” the editorial writer asked.
It is unclear who wrote the editorial.
When contacted last month by The New York Times, the woman, who is no longer a journalist, declined to comment and asked that she not be identified.