The former news reporter who accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of “groping” her nearly two decades ago prior to his career in politics has broken her silence.
What’s the background?
The alleged incident happened in 2000 when Trudeau was 28. He was in British Columbia attending a charity event in memory of his brother, Michel, who died in an avalanche in 1998. After the event, a local newspaper published an unsigned editorial accusing Trudeau of “groping” and “inappropriately handling” one of its reporters on assignment, according to the Independent.
The reporter felt “blatantly disrespected” by Trudeau, who allegedly apologized the next day. According to the same newspaper that published the accusations, Trudeau offered an apology, but said: “If I had known you were reporting for a national paper I never would have been so forward.”
What did the accuser say?
Rose Knight, the former journalist at the center of the incident, told a Canadian newspaper that she stands by her account of what happened to her — but now considers the matter closed, and doesn’t wish to relive the pain of her experience, according to CBC News.
Knight said she was speaking out “reluctantly” and only in response to mounting media pressure.
“I issue this statement reluctantly, in response to mounting media pressure to confirm that I was the reporter who was the subject of the Open Eyes editorial, published in the Creston Valley Advance in August of 2000,” Knight said, CBC reported.
“The incident referred to in the editorial did occur, as reported. Mr. Trudeau did apologize the next day. I did not pursue the incident at the time and will not be pursuing the incident further. I have had no subsequent contact with Mr. Trudeau, before or after he became Prime Minister,” she explained.
Knight added that if debate about the alleged incident continues, it will have to move forward without her.
How did Trudeau respond?
When the allegations resurfaced last month, Trudeau told the Canadian media he did not recall a “negative interaction” with a reporter at the charity event in British Columbia. In response to Knight’s speaking out, Trudeau reiterated his innocence.
He said, according to CBC:
Over the past weeks, since this news resurfaced, I’ve been reflecting, we’ve all been reflecting, on past behaviours. And as I’ve said, I’m confident I didn’t act inappropriately, but I think the essence of this is people can experience interactions differently and part of the lesson we need to learn in this moment of collective awakening … people in many cases, women, experience interactions in professional contexts and other contexts differently than men.
To explain why he apologized to Knight immediately following the incident, Trudeau said he understood the reporter perceived their interaction “in a different way than I acted or I experienced it.”
“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 told reporters Thursday, according to the Toronto Sun.
“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,” he added.