Addressing reporters in Ottawa Wednesday, Trudeau acknowledged his failed attempt at humor, which was well received by the crowd but not so much elsewhere.
“You all know that I don't necessarily have the best track records on jokes. I made a dumb joke a few days ago that seems to have gone a little viral,” the 46-year-old prime minister said, according to Reuters. “It played well in the room in context. Out of context it doesn't play so well and it's a little reminder to me that I shouldn't be making jokes even when I think they're funny.”
During the exchange last week, the woman first thanked Trudeau, a self-proclaimed feminist, for filling his Cabinet seats with women and recognizing the “ability and power that women actually possess.” She went on to talk about concepts such as “maternal love” and “God the Mother” and said the world needs more female leaders who possess such love.
She then proceeded to ask Trudeau to look into policies on volunteering for religious charitable organizations and pivoted back to “maternal love,” describing it as “the love that's going to change the future of mankind.”
Trudeau waved his hand to interrupt.
“We'd like to say ‘peoplekind,’ not necessarily 'mankind,’” Trudeau said, adding that the former is more inclusive.
Many in the audience cheered, including the woman, whose name is not known.
“There you go, exactly. Yes, thank you,” she said.
An editorial by the conservative tabloid Toronto Sun described Trudeau's response as a form of mansplaining. In a column published on the Daily Mail, Piers Morgan called Trudeau “the single most PC-friendly” prime minister, intent on winning the hearts of liberals. “Fox & Friends” even aired an entire segment on the exchange, with a guest slamming Trudeau as a “radical leftist propagandist.”
Some went on social media:
The big thing about Trudeau's #peoplekind comment is that it's not a word. It's not in any dictionary. The man is so painfully politically correct he literally invented a new word just to chew out some woman. But I guess it was also her fault for asking him a question.— J.J. McCullough (@JJ_McCullough) February 6, 2018
But Daniel Dale, Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, said on Twitter that the “US-right-wing pile-on” regarding Trudeau's comment was misleading. Trudeau's critics, Dale said, failed to mention the woman and the audience's positive reaction.
“He was lightly ribbing a woman who was rambling about the power of women, 'God the Mother,' and how the world needs womanly love,” Dale tweeted.
VICE political columnist Drew Brown mocked Trudeau's critics Tuesday, saying the prime minister was “so woke his brain went supernova and exploded!”
“Social justice really rots your brain,” Brown said. “They should put a trigger warning for idiocy on those town hall tickets!”
He also posted a full video of the nearly two-hour-long town hall, saying the 22-second clip circulating among conservative outlets didn't show the full context of the exchange. “After watching the extra three minutes around the clip in question, it seems like this is less a snuff film of 'common sense' than it is the prime minister doing a reasonably good job of handling [an] intensely religious Christian-adjacent heretic,” Brown wrote. “The video clip is real, but it has been cut to play as a (funny and believable) lie.”
Trudeau has made it his mission to put more women in prominent political and judicial posts. Half of the 74 judges his government has appointed over the past year are women. His Cabinet also has an equal number of men and women. In 2016, he announced that a Canadian woman will be the face of the country's newest bank notes, which are expected in 2018.
In a speech in Davos, Switzerland, last month, Trudeau defended gender and social equality and invoked the movements that have taken shape in the United States.
“MeToo, TimesUp, the Women's March — these movements tell us that we need to have a critical discussion on women's rights, equality and power dynamics of gender,” he said.
Last week, Canada's Senate passed a bill that would make the country's national anthem gender-neutral by changing the phrase “in all they sons command” to “in all of us command.”