Amid groping row, Trudeau apologizes to former reporter but insists it was not for said allegations

The woman who accused Justin Trudeau of groping said he had apologized and that she did not wish to pursue the incident at that time and nor will she be doing it in the future.

                            Amid groping row, Trudeau apologizes to former reporter but insists it was not for said allegations
Justin Trudeau (Source:Getty Images)

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, once again denied allegations that 18 years ago he acted inappropriately with a young reporter at a charity event. However, he said on Friday that his accuser may have experienced their interaction in a different manner. During an interview with the  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Toronto radio station, Trudeau said: “I do not feel that there was any inappropriate action of any type. 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.”

Back in 2000, an unsigned editorial published by The Creston Valley Advance claimed that Trudeau, who has been Canada's prime minister since 2015, groped the said reporter when he was living in British Columbia, working as a schoolteacher.

Shortly before Trudeau hosted the Group of 7 summit meeting last month in Quebec, a blogger who is a well-known critic of the prime minister gave the editorial new prominence after it resurfaced in Frank, a Canadian political satire and gossip magazine. At the time, far-right news outlet Breitbart had picked up the said piece.

Immediately after the news was revived, several media outlets including The New York Times reported on the said allegations. Trudeau, who is a self-described feminist, recently removed a member of Parliament from his cabinet for making lascivious comments in a previous political role. However, the accusations received modest attention in Canada except from the opposition Conservative Party, which has relentlessly accused Trudeau of hypocrisy.

According to reports, the incident took place when Trudeau attended the erstwhile Konkanee Summit Festival in Creston, British Columbia. He was present in the event to accept a donation for a charity - which he had established with other members of his family after the death of his brother two years earlier in an avalanche - to prevent deaths from such natural calamities.

According to the editorial, the anonymous reporter was disrespected by Trudeau because she was from a small newspaper. It said that the prime minister had engaged in “inappropriately handling” of one of its reporters during the event.

“It’s not a rare incident to have a young reporter, especially a female who is working for a small community newspaper, be considered an underling to their ‘more predominant’ associates and blatantly disrespected because of it,” the editorial said. Fascinatingly, the author of the editorial went on to ask: “Didn’t he learn through his vast experiences in public life, that groping a strange young woman isn’t the handbook of proper etiquette?”

That being said, it is yet unclear as to who wrote the said editorial. The editorial also claimed that the reporter was on assignment for The Vancouver Sun and The National Post. All the three newspapers were reportedly owned by a company controlled by Conrad M. Black.

Trudeau allegedly apologized to the reporter by saying: “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward.”

In a statement to the C.B.C. late on Friday, a woman named Rose Knight acknowledged that she was the reporter. Knight, who is no longer a journalist, declined to comment when contacted last month by The Times and asked that she not be identified. Knight said she was "reluctantly" making her public statement and claimed that the incident “did occur, as reported" in the editorial.

She added: “Mr. Trudeau did apologize the next day. I did not pursue the incident at the time and I will not be pursuing the incident further.” 

Knight also asserted that she did not represent any organization or “movement, political or otherwise,” and maintained that she would not comment further. She wrote, "The debate, if it continues, will continue without my involvement."  Trudeau publicly acknowledged on Friday that he had apologized to Knight, even though claiming he did not know what she was referring to.

Matt Galloway, the radio host, asked Trudeau why he had apologized when he had struck down the reporter's claims. Trudeau then replied rather vaguely:  “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.”

“Even though I don’t think I did anything wrong, that’s not the whole story anymore,” Trudeau said.

On Friday, the former publisher of The Advance, Valerie Bourne, wrote in an email to NY Times that she spoke with Knight privately on the day it happened. According to her, Knight told her the incident involved “an inappropriate touch which in the context of today would be called ‘sexual’ in nature.” While Bourne found the former reporter's account credible, she said she was not satisfied with Trudeau woolly 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.”