Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a fundraiser in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, July 5, 2018.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a fundraiser in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, July 5, 2018. Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has responded to allegations that he groped a journalist almost two decades ago. He has again denied he acted “inappropriately” to the reporter when he was just 28.

A local newspaper first reported the accusation days after the alleged incident in 2000, saying Trudeau, who was then a teacher, groped a young female reporter during a music festival in British Columbia. The unsigned editorial in Creston Valley Advance, a photo of which was tweeted by political commentator Warren Kinsella, did not give details on the alleged incident, only that Trudeau apologised a day later for “inappropriately ‘handling’ the reporter while she was on assignment.”

“I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward,” he allegedly said at that time.

On Monday, Trudeau addressed the allegation briefly, saying he did not recall any “negative interactions” on that day. But increasing criticisms from the opposition and the public, as well as the fact that the accusation was hurting his brand, have perhaps prompted him to address the incident once more.

“I’ve been reflecting very carefully on what I remember from that incident almost 20 years ago,” he told reporters on Thursday. “And again, I’m confident that I do not feel that I acted inappropriately in any way. But I respect the fact that someone else might have experienced that differently.”

On why he apologised a day later, as the paper had claimed, Trudeau said it was because he sensed that the reporter was not entirely comfortable with the interaction they had. He said neither he nor his team had attempted to contact the woman because they did not think it would be appropriate.

According to CBC, it had contacted the reporter but she refused to be identified and did not want to be associated with the incident.

“I don’t want to speak for her, I don’t want to presume how she feels now,” 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.”

He acknowledged, though, that women might not share the same experience as a man in such incident. “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.”