Trudeau Says Nothing ‘Untoward’ Led to Past Groping Allegation

(Bloomberg) -- Justin Trudeau said he doesn’t believe he acted inappropriately in an interaction with a reporter 18 years ago, but acknowledged she might feel differently.

The Canadian prime minister responded when asked about an unsigned editorial that appeared in the Creston Valley Advance newspaper in 2000, which recently resurfaced in reports by the National Post, Canadian Broadcast Corp. and others. The editorial accuses Trudeau -- then 28 and not yet in politics -- of “groping” and “inappropriately handling” a young female reporter, and quotes him saying he wouldn’t “have been so forward” had he known she was representing a national news outlet.

“The same interactions can be felt very differently by different people going through them and we have to respect that,” Trudeau told reporters Thursday in Toronto. “Often a man experiences an interaction as being benign or not inappropriate, and a woman, particularly in a professional context, can experience it differently. And we have to respect that and reflect on it.”

Questions have intensified since the incident came to light, given the tough stance Trudeau has taken on allegations of misconduct and how he and his government position themselves as champions of women’s rights. The prime minister said he had been reflecting on the situation, that he’d apologized at the time but doesn’t think he was offside in the encounter.

“I’m confident that I did not act inappropriately,” he said. “I’m responsible for my side of the interaction, which certainly, as I said, I don’t feel was in any way untoward.”

The exact nature of the interaction isn’t known, and the woman’s identity hasn’t been published, with news outlets saying she has declined to come forward. The newspaper’s then-publisher told the CBC she remembered it was “a brief touch” and that she “would not classify it or qualify it as sexual assault.”

Trudeau said he hasn’t spoken to the woman or tried to contact her. “I don’t want to presume how she feels now,” the prime minister said. “I haven’t reached out to her, no one on my team has reached out to her -- we don’t think that would be appropriate at all.”

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