In a story that increasingly threatens his image as Canada’s feminist prime minister, Justin Trudeau changed his 18-year-old groping allegation story on Thursday night.
As the Toronto Sun reports, Trudeau now says the female reporter who accused him of groping her during a Creston, B.C. music festival “was not entirely comfortable with the interaction that we had.”
Trudeau has previously stuck to a statement that says he could not recall “any negative interactions” on the day he and the reporter met.
“I’ve been reflecting on the actual interaction and if I apologized later, then it would be because I sensed that she was not entirely comfortable with the interaction that we had,” Trudeau said to reporters. “Even when the original editorial came out, at the time I was fairly confident — I was very confident — that I hadn’t acted in a way that I felt was in any way inappropriate.”
The editorial in question, reportedly written by the woman who accused Trudeau of the assault, said Trudeau apologized for the incident but that it was more a backhanded excuse that suggested, “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national newspaper, I would never have been so forward.”
Trudeau continued to mince his recounting of the facts Thursday night in a Clintonesque manner:
“I’ll be blunt about it. 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,” he said.
Other politicians might be provided with some room for error but Trudeau has consistently insisted that female victims of sexual assault and harassment should always be believed — whether those charges are proven in court or not.
“There is an awful lot of reflection to be had as we move forward as a society on how people perceive different interactions,” Trudeau said. “Like I 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.”
Trudeau would not comment on whether an independent investigation was warranted into the alleged incident. Both Trudeau’s and the Prime Minister’s Office have ruled out communicating with the reporter who made the allegations almost two decades ago.