A journalist who claimed that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had touched her inappropriately nearly two decades ago is speaking out. Rose Knight, the woman behind the Trudeau groping allegations, said Friday she will not be pursuing the incident further but stands by the initial description of the incident. Knight said she was reluctant to come forward but that "mounting media pressure" had led her to do so.
"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 in a statement issued to CBC News. "The incident referred to in the editorial did occur, as reported."
An unsigned editorial published nearly 18 years ago under the headline "Open Eyes" alleged Trudeau, then 28, of inappropriately "handling" one of the paper's reporters at the Kokanee Summit, a charity music festival in Creston, British Columbia. The editorial was recently thrust back into the spotlight when a political commentator tweeted a picture of it along with the #metoo hashtag.
On Thursday, Trudeau said that while he was confident he had not acted inappropriately with Knight, he respected the fact that she might have experienced their encounter differently than he did. "Part of this awakening that we're having as a society... is that it's not just one side of the story that matters, that the same interactions can be experienced very differently from one person to the next and I am not going to speak for the woman," ABC News reported he said.
Knight confirmed Friday that, as the Creston Valley Advance editorial had stated, Trudeau apologized to her after the festival saying he "never would have been so forward" had he known she was a reporter. "Mr. Trudeau did apologize the next day," her statement read. "I did not pursue the incident at the time and will not be pursuing the incident further."
In her statement to CBC News, Knight did not provide any additional details as to how Trudeau had behaved toward her at the festival in 2000. The Creston Vally Advance editorial notes only that Trudeau was alleged to have been "inappropriately handling" the reporter. It goes on suggest that Trudeau, as the son of a former prime minister, should know "that groping a strange young woman isn't in the handbook of proper etiquette."
Valerie Bourne, who served as publisher of the Creston Valley Advance at the time of the editorial's printing, told CBC News earlier this month that she remembered Knight being "unsettled" by what had happened at the festival. "She didn't like what had happened," CBC News reported Bourne said. "She wasn't sure how she should proceed with it because, of course, we're talking [about] somebody who was known to the Canadian community."
But Bourne said she would not go so far as to describe the nearly two decade old incident as sexual assault. "It was a brief touch," Bourne said. "I would not classify it or qualify it as sexual assault." According to Bourne, Knight had been interviewing Trudeau when he touched her.
Trudeau told reporters Thursday that he had apologized to the reporter after the incident "because I sensed that she was not entirely comfortable with the interaction that we had." While the prime minister maintained that he had not felt his behavior was inappropriate, he noted there was a lesson to be learned. "Often a man experiences an interaction as being benign, or not inappropriate, and a woman, particularly in a professional context can experience it differently," the Guardian reported he said. "And we have to respect that, and reflect on it."
While the #metoo movement has helped bring discussions of sexual harassment and misconduct into the headlines, the woman behind the Trudeau groping allegations said Friday she's not seeking to continue the conversation about this particular incident. "The debate, if it continues, will continue without my involvement," Knight said.