Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted Thursday he previously apologized to a reporter who alleged Trudeau groped her at a festival in 2000 — but the Liberal Party leader continued to insist he didn’t act inappropriately.
Trudeau expanded on comments he made Sunday, when he told reporters he didn’t “remember any negative interactions” on the day in which he’s accused of groping a Creston Daily Advance journalist.
“I’ve been reflecting very carefully on what I remember from that incident almost 20 years ago,” he said. “I do not feel that I acted inappropriately in any way. But I respect the fact that someone else might have experienced that differently.”
Trudeau said he would have apologized to the reporter because he “sensed that she was not entirely comfortable with the interaction that we had,” according to The Guardian.
“I apologized at the moment,” Trudeau said, adding that he didn’t feel it would be appropriate to contact the woman in question.
Allegations against the prime minister re-surfaced last week when a Calgary law professor posted a picture of an old Creston Daily Advance newspaper editorial page that featured claims the then-teacher engaged in inappropriately “handling” a reporter. The story didn’t have a byline.
Trudeau at the time was 28 years old and was helping raise money at the British Columbia event to support avalanche safety, a cause he came to support after his brother had died in one in 1998, The Guardian reported.
The woman said she felt “blatantly disrespected” at the time, though the story didn’t offer many specifics about the incident, according to The Guardian.
“I’m sorry,” Trudeau allegedly told the woman at the time. “If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward.”
The reporter was distressed about the alleged incident with Trudeau, Valerie Bourne, the paper’s former publisher, told CBC News. Bourne added she wouldn’t have classified the encounter as “sexual assault.”
“She didn’t like what had happened. She wasn’t sure how she should proceed with it, because of course we’re talking [about] somebody who was known to the Canadian community,” Bourne said.
Brian Bell, the editor of the paper at the time, believed the reporter, he told CBC News.
“I certainly believe that it happened,” Bell said. “This reporter was of a high character in my opinion and was professional in the way she conducted herself, and there’s no question in my mind that what was alluded to, written about in that editorial, did happen.”