Justin Trudeau has admitted making an apology to a female reporter who accused him of groping her at a charity fundraiser in 2000 – but says he still feels he did nothing wrong.
The Canadian prime minister – who has presented himself as a vocal supporter of feminist causes – has faced questions since allegations of his inappropriate behaviour emerged last week.
In his first comments about the incident, he claimed he “didn’t remember any negative interactions" during his appearance at the event in the town of Creston, British Colombia. But, speaking on Thursday, he told reporters: “I apologised in the moment.”
He said: “I’ve been reflecting very carefully on what I remember from that incident almost 20 years ago and, again, I feel, I am confident, I did not act inappropriately.”
But he conceded the woman involved could have come away from the encounter with a different interpretation of what happened.
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. If I apologised later then it would be because I sensed that she was not entirely comfortable with the interaction we had.”
The allegations resurfaced after an editorial, which appeared in the Creston Valley Advance newspaper in August 2000, was tweeted by the political commentator Warren Kinsella.
The article describes how Mr Trudeau told the female reporter: “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national newspaper, I would never have been so forward.” The piece adds that he apologised for “handling” the young journalist.
Mr Trudeau - who previously said he has zero tolerance for sexual harassment - revealed during his new remarks that no-one on his team had approached the woman because they did not feel it was appropriate.
She herself told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that she was not interested in being associated with any further coverage of the story, and asked that her name not be used, and that she not be contacted again.
At the time of the original complaint, Mr Trudeau was a teacher who had not yet become involved in politics, but was widely known as the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
He attended the Avalanche Foundation fundraiser to support safety on the slopes following the 1998 death of his brother Michel while skiing.
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