The accusation that Justin Trudeau 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.
OTTAWA — 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.
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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.
On Friday, Trudeau acknowledged that he had offered an apology to the woman, even though, “I did not know to what she was referring.”
When asked by Matt Galloway, the radio host, why he had apologized if he did not believe he had done anything wrong, Trudeau replied: “It was because I saw that she had been made uncomfortable and I did not want her to be uncomfortable regardless of whether I knew why she was uncomfortable or not.”
He added: “Even though I don’t think I did anything wrong, that’s not the whole story anymore.”
In an email on Friday, Valerie Bourne, the former publisher of The Advance, said she spoke privately with the woman on the day of the incident.
She said the reporter told her that the incident involved “an inappropriate touch which in the context of today would be called ‘sexual’ in nature.”
Bourne said that she found the reporter’s account credible and that she had not been satisfied with Trudeau’s responses.
“Trudeau has now acknowledged that he thinks he proffered an apology to her, but he tempers the acknowledgment by saying that if he did so, it was because he sensed that she was not comfortable with their interaction at that event,” she wrote in the email. “His latest interview is still a tap dance around the questions put to him by reporters and in Parliament.”