Brownface, blackface photos cause scandal for Trudeau

TORONTO (AP) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's campaign moved to contain a growing scandal Thursday after a yearbook photo surfaced of him in brownface at a 2001 "Arabian Nights" costume party and two other similar incidents came to light.

With the election a month away, he apologized and begged Canadians to forgive him.

Time magazine published the photo on Wednesday, saying it was taken from the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. It shows the then-29-year-old Trudeau in a turban and robe with dark makeup on his hands, face and neck.

Trudeau, who launched his re-election campaign a week ago, said he should have known better.

"I'm pissed off at myself. I'm disappointed in myself," he told reporters on his campaign plane.

Trudeau is the latest in a string of politicians to get in trouble over racially offensive photos and actions from their younger days.

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Photos of Justin Trudeau and Melania Trump go viral
First Lady Melania Trump kisses Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next to the U.S. President Donald Trump during the family photo with invited guests at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Melania Trump as she arrives for a family photo with President Donald Trump, during the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Pool via AP)
BIARRITZ, FRANCE - AUGUST 25: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, French President's wife Brigitte Macron join G7 leaders and guests as they gather for a family picture in front of the Biarritz lighthouse on the second day of the annual G7 summit on August 25, 2019 in Biarritz, France. (Photo by Andrew Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)on August 25, 2019 in Biarritz, France. (Photo by Andrew Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)
BIARRITZ, FRANCE - AUGUST 25: African Union Chair Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Japanese Prime Minister's wife Akie Abe, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, French President's wife Brigitte Macron, France's President Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel join G7 leaders and guests as they gather for a family picture in front of the Biarritz lighthouse on the second day of the annual G7 summit on August 25, 2019 in Biarritz, France. (Photo by Andrew Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)on August 25, 2019 in Biarritz, France. (Photo by Andrew Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)
(L-R) Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, French President's wife Brigitte Macron, France's President Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel pose during a family picture with G7 leaders and guests, on the second day of the annual G7 summit in Biarritz, south-west France on August 25, 2019. (Photo by Rita Franca/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(LtoR) Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, French President's wife Brigitte Macron, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Senegal's President Macky Sall pose during a family picture with G7 leaders and guests, on the second day of the annual G7 summit in Biarritz, south-west France on August 25, 2019. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
(LtoR) Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, French President's wife Brigitte Macron, France's President Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel pose during a family picture with G7 leaders and guests, on the second day of the annual G7 summit in Biarritz, south-west France on August 25, 2019. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - G7 leaders and guests pose for a family picture with the Biarritz lighthouse in the background on the second day of the annual G7 summit in Biarritz, south-west France on August 25, 2019. (First row) LtoR Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, African Union Chair Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Japanese Prime Minister's wife Akie Abe, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, French President's wife Brigitte Macron, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, Senegal's President Macky Sall, Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera, his wife Cecilia Morel, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, EU Council President's wife Malgorzata Tusk, European Council President Donald Tusk. (Second row) Chile's President Sebastian Pinera (L), Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat (2ndL), Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (5thL) his wife Jenny Morrison, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (7thR), India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (6thR), Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (4thR), Spanish Prime Minister's wife Begona Sanchez (3rdR), OECD Secretary-General Jose Angel Gurria (2ndR), African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina (R). (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Melania Trump as she arrives for a family photo with President Donald Trump, during the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Pool via AP)
From left, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, and Brigitte Macron, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, arrive for the G-7 family photo at G-7 summit at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, France, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
From left, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Brigitte Macron, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel depart following the G-7 family photo at G-7 summit at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, France, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
First row from left: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Akie Abe, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Brigitte Macron, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive for the G-7 family photo at G-7 summit at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, France, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
First row from left: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Akie Abe, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Brigitte Macron, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive for the G-7 family photo at G-7 summit at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, France, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
From the left, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Brigitte Macron, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pose during the G7 family photo Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019 in Biarritz. A top Iranian official paid an unannounced visit Sunday to the G-7 summit and headed straight to the buildings where leaders of the world's major democracies have been debating how to handle the country's nuclear ambitions. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
First Lady Melania Trump speaks with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next to the U.S. President Donald Trump during the family photo with invited guests at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
First Lady Melania Trump kisses Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next to the U.S. President Donald Trump, Brigitte Macron, wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, and French President Emmanuel Macron during the family photo with invited guests at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
First Lady Melania Trump speaks with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next to the U.S. President Donald Trump during the family photo with invited guests at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron, U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pose for a family photo with invited guests during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron, U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pose for a family photo with invited guests during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
First Lady Melania Trump kisses Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next to the U.S. President Donald Trump during the family photo with invited guests at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
First Lady Melania Trump speaks with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next to the U.S. President Donald Trump during the family photo with invited guests at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron, U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pose for a family photo with invited guests during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, First Lady Melania Trump, U.S. President Donald Trump, Brigitte Macron, wife of French President Emmanuel Macron and French President Emmanuel Macron pose for a family photo with invited guests at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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Earlier this year, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faced intense pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page. He denied being in the picture but admitted wearing blackface as a young man while portraying Michael Jackson at a dance party in the 1980s. Since then, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has acknowledged wearing blackface in college, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has apologized donning blackface during a college skit more than 50 years ago. None of them stepped down.

The photo of Trudeau was taken at the school's annual dinner, which had an "Arabian Nights" theme that year, Trudeau said, adding that he was dressed as a character from "Aladdin."

The prime minister said it was not the first time he darkened his face. He said he once did it while performing a version of Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song (Day-O)" during a talent show.

"I should have known better then, but I didn't, and I am deeply sorry for it," Trudeau said. "I'm going to ask Canadians to forgive me for what I did. I shouldn't have done that. I take responsibility for it. It was a dumb thing to do."

Global News also reported on a third instance, broadcasting a brief video of Trudeau in blackface while raising his hands in the air and sticking out his tongue. A spokeswoman for Trudeau's Liberal Party said the footage was from the early 1990s. The Canadian TV network said it was not clear where the tape was made.

The furor could spell more trouble for Trudeau, who polls say is facing a serious challenge Oct. 21 from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

"What Canadians saw this evening was someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who is not fit to govern this country," Scheer said.

Trudeau champions diversity, multiculturalism and immigration and has been admired by liberals around the world for his policies in the Trump era, with Canada accepting more refugees than the U.S. His government has also strongly advocated free trade and has legalized cannabis.

But the 47-year-old son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was already vulnerable following one of the biggest scandals in Canadian political history, which arose when Trudeau's former attorney general said he improperly pressured her to halt the prosecution of a company in Quebec. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the scandal rocked the government and led to resignations and a drop in his ratings earlier this year.

His quick apology did not stem the criticism from political opponents.

"I am deeply troubled by what this means to Canada. Young kids are not just going to see just one or two but multiple images of the prime minister mocking their lived reality," said Leftist New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, who is a Sikh. "This is so hurtful to so many Canadians."

Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto, said he was "gobsmacked" by the development.

"We'll just have to see how the party reacts," he said. "I'm very curious to know how Liberal members of Parliament that are black will react."

He added: "The case has never been conclusively made that Justin is a person of substance. I mean, he may well be. But that impression is just not out there."

Mitzie Hunter, a Liberal running to lead the party in Ontario provincial politics, tweeted that what Trudeau did was wrong but noted he 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," Hunter tweeted.

Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said he doesn't believe the photo will cause people to vote differently. Wiseman said race and blackface play a much bigger role in U.S. politics than in Canada.

"This is not the type of scandal that will drive voters to the Conservatives," he said.

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