Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has responded to claims he groped a female reporter at a music festival 18 years ago. The world leader addressed the accusations of sexual assault, saying he believes he and his accuser experienced the encounter "differently".
"I do not feel that I acted inappropriately in any way, but I respect the fact that someone else might have experienced that differently," Trudeau said, speaking publicly about the allegations for the first time.
British Columbia's Creston Valley Advance newspaper accused Trudeau of "groping" the reporter at the Kokanee Summit festival in a year 2000 editorial that has resurfaced in recent weeks.
Trudeau, who was 28 at the time, is quoted as apologising and then stating: "If I had known you were reporting for a national newspaper, I never would have been so forward."
The story has resurfaced in the Washington Post and The Times in recent days, prompting the Canadian leader to deny the allegations.
Trudeau was asked about the allegation after he met with the Ontario Premier. He said that if he did indeed apologise about the interaction — as the editorial says he did — then "it would have been because I sensed that she was not entirely comfortable with the interaction that we had."
He also referenced a post #MeToo world and said the fact people can experience the same interaction differently is a key lesson of "this awakening we're having as a society.""I'll be blunt about it," Trudeau said. "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 that."
The fact Trudeau has made a name for himself for being unashamedly feminist — and has become the 'internet's boyfriend' in recent years has not and will not escape the world media.