U.S. strategist apologizes for joking that he could have killed PM '20 different ways'
An American conservative strategist is apologizing for making what he called a "dumb joke" about having an opportunity to kill the prime minister.
Steven Sutton, an executive of the Leadership Institute — a U.S. conservative strategy firm — was delivering a presentation in Ottawa on Wednesday at the Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference, formerly known as the Manning Networking Conference.
Sutton's presentation focused on campaign messaging. He was speaking about what he heard during a Tuesday visit to the House of Commons when he made the remark about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"Trudeau crossed us. He was within two feet of us," he said. "I had my chance. That was it … I went to the [U.S.] Naval Academy so I could have killed him 20 different ways."
Immediately after he made the remark, it appeared that someone in the crowd suggested his comment might be taken the wrong way.
"I don't care if I get cancelled in Canada," he replied. "I don't care if I get cancelled anywhere."
Following his presentation, Sutton told CBC that the remark was a "dumb joke" and apologized.
"I apologize if anyone was offended. Obviously it was a meaningless thing," he said.
Organizers say comment was 'inappropriate'
According to Sutton's profile on the Leadership Institute website, he has worked on a number of U.S congressional campaigns and has served as a chief of staff for a number of U.S. House representatives.
The Canada Strong and Free Network was founded in 2005 as the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. The organization hosts regular events, including an annual networking conference, to share ideas about advancing the conservative movement in Canada.
A spokesperson for the organization said Sutton's comments were "inappropriate."
"We have great respect for elected officials across the political spectrum," the spokesperson said in a statement.
Sutton is one of dozens of speakers attending the conference in Ottawa this week. A number of Conservative parliamentarians, including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, are expected to take the stage. Former prime minister Stephen Harper and former Reform Party leader Preston Manning will also speak.