OTTAWA — A seemingly off-the-cuff remark by Justin Trudeau morphed into a scornful segment on one of U.S. President Donald Trump's favourite TV shows Tuesday just as the prime minister heads to the U.S. in hopes of selling Canada's virtues stateside.
"Fox and Friends" was among the mainstream media outlets that seized on a surprising exchange between Trudeau and a woman at a town hall event, an interaction that's since spun out to become a subject of global ridicule on the right side of the political spectrum.
The woman was going on about the need for more support for religious organizations and said maternal love was key to changing the future of mankind. At that point, Trudeau interjected, cheerfully telling her, "We like to say peoplekind, not necessarily mankind. It's more inclusive."
The remark was warmly received by both the woman and many others in the audience, but when footage of the exchange surfaced Tuesday, it drew withering condemnation from social and mainstream media.
Prominent British TV broadcaster Piers Morgan called Trudeau a "Chief PC Plonker," accusing him of killing off mankind. Australian columnist Rita Panahi called him the "Kim Kardashian of political leaders; an all-style, no-substance himbo with all the depth of a puddle."
Jokes abounded, with pictures posted of comic superhero Batman changing his name to "Batperson" or the province of Manitoba becoming "Peopletoba."
Conservative parliamentarians also got in a few jabs. At one point Tuesday during a testy question period exchange, deputy Tory leader Lisa Raitt urged the prime minister to "person up."
"Fox and Friends" devoted a segment to the term featuring University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, who has gained notoriety for steadfastly refusing to use gender-neutral terms, turning him into something of a celebrity on the right.
The show is known to be among Trump's favourites, and he often posts tweets in direct response to what they are reporting. On Tuesday, however, the president appeared to be holding his thumbs.
The two leaders are not scheduled to meet during Trudeau's four-day trip to the U.S. this week.
The prime minister begins in Chicago, where he's pitching the benefits of progressive trade in a region that's seen deals like NAFTA take away stable and solid Midwest jobs. Updating NAFTA is a way to ensure the deal benefits a broader swath of people, the Liberals argue.
Trudeau was at the top of the list of speakers requested by students at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics.
"Perhaps in the era of Trump, there are a lot of students who are looking north and feel a sense of identification with the sense of direction he's leading your country," said David Axelrod, a former top adviser to Barack Obama, who is moderating the event.
Not unlike Obama, Trudeau's progressive policies make him an easy punching bag for the U.S. right.
The Liberal payout to Omar Khadr, his praise for Fidel Castro and in January, his defence of refusing to give federal government money to explicitly pro-life organizations have all drawn attention.
"This man is reprehensible," former White House staffer Sebastian Gorka tweeted after Trudeau said pro-life groups were out of touch with Canadian society.
Gorka is now a contributor to the Canadian-based conservative news outlet Rebel Media, which was among the first to pick up on the "peoplekind" remark after footage of it began circulating online.
— with files from Jordan Press