WASHINGTON–Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s re-election campaign was rocked again Thursday as he issued a second apology after another instance of him in dark makeup was reported by the media. After a second picture and a video emerged of him wearing blackface, the Canadian politician asked for forgiveness.
At a campaign appearance in Winnipeg on Thursday, he apologized — his second apology in as many days — and added that “Darkening your face is always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface. I should have understood that then, and I never should have done it.”
Trudeau said he acknowledges that he “came from a place of privilege, but I now need to acknowledge that comes with a massive blind spot.”
He then admitted that he did not know how many times he had put on dark makeup. “I am wary of, of being definitive about this because the recent pictures that came out I had not remembered.”
He also tweeted Thursday: “What I did was hurtful to people who live with intolerance and discrimination every day. I recognize that, and I take full responsibility for it. I know that I let a lot of people down with that choice, and I am deeply sorry.”
Here’s what we know about the pictures and video of Trudeau that have emerged so far, and the reaction that has followed:
Evoking ‘Aladdin’ at a 2001 ‘Arabian Nights’ gala
The existence of a 2001 photograph showing Trudeau, then a 29-year-old teacher at a pricey private school, attending an end-of-year gala “where the theme was Arabian Nights,” was first reported by Time Magazine Wednesday, and was confirmed to Time by spokeswoman Zita Astravas of his re-election campaign.
“He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin,” she told the magazine.
Wednesday, he told reporters while traveling on an airplane he “shouldn’t have done it. I should have known better, but I didn’t,” he said. “And I’m really sorry.”
Singing ‘Day-O’ during a high school talent show
Later Wednesday, a second image emerged that reportedly shows Trudeau performing in a talent show as a high school student.
In the same remarks to reporters on the airplane Wednesday, Trudeau had admitted that he had once dressed up in a similar way during a high school talent show, saying he wore “makeup” to perform “Day-O”, a traditional Jamaican folk tune sung by legendary African American performer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.
A third instance captured in 1990s video
A new video surfaced Thursday from Global News that reportedly shows Trudeau in dark makeup, raising his hands and laughing.
The outlet reported that officials of Canada’s Liberal Party, which Trudeau leads, confirmed the video and that the footage was from the early 1990s.
The news organization obtained the video from a source within the Conservative Party of Canada.
‘Not fit to govern,’ ‘deeply shocked,’ ‘a teachable moment’
Prior to the revelations Wednesday and Thursday, Trudeau was already facing a tough six-week re-election campaign amid some ethical questions over whether he pressured the former Canadian attorney general to drop charges against a major construction firm and avoid a corruption trial.
The Canadian federal election is basically a month away, scheduled for Oct. 21.
Trudeau’s chief opponent in the tight race, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, reacted Wednesday, before Thursday’s revelation, by declaring Trudeau is “someone with a complete lack of judgment, and integrity, and someone who is not fit to govern this country” also saying that he was “extremely shocked and disappointed of Trudeau’s actions.”
The leader of Canada’s Green Party, Elizabeth May, said Wednesday — prior to the revelation of the 1990s video and Trudeau’s second apology Thursday — that she was “deeply shocked by the racism shown in the photograph.”
Trudeau has positioned himself as a champion of social justice, inclusivity and diversity during his tenure as prime minister, and told reporters Wednesday voters should make their decisions based on what candidates do in office and “on a case-by-case basis.”
Under Trudeau, Canada has accepted significant numbers of refugees and half of Trudeau’s Cabinet is made up of women, four of his ministers are Sikhs, and his immigration minister is a Somali-born refugee, the Associated Press reported.
A Liberal candidate to represent the party in Ontario, Mitzie Hunter, tweeted Thursday morning: “What Justin Trudeau did was wrong. He has apologized. I know it is not representative of the man he is. This is a teachable moment for all of us. I accept his apology and I hope Canadians do too.”
‘Canadians have an important choice to make’
In the wake of this week’s racism controversy, Trudeau showed no sign on Thursday that he would be resigning or ending his re-election campaign.
“I will continue to do the work that is necessary to keep us moving forward in the right way,” he said during his remarks in Winnipeg.
“Canadians have an important choice to make on October 21. I trust Canadians to make the right choice,” he continued to light applause.