Trudeau makes a statment about a photograph that surfaced showing him wearing brownface makeup
Trudeau apologizes for wearing brownface at party
01:15 - Source: CTV News
CNN  — 

Justin Trudeau has long cultivated a public persona as a “woke” champion of socially progressive values.

In office, he has proudly proclaimed he is a feminist and proposed legislation to tackle gender pay equity. He has personally welcomed Syrian refugees to the country. And he has offered formal apologies on behalf of the Canadian government for how it treated indigenous people and LGBTQ2 people.

But despite those public positions, a series of issues away from the cameras threatens to take down his chances of remaining Prime Minister in the federal election next month.

Wednesday’s revelation that Trudeau had darkened his face for an “Arabian Nights” event in 2001, when he was a school teacher, was just another example of the contrast between what critics see as the two Trudeaus.

“We see one Mr. Trudeau in public. I’ll be honest with you, he seems really nice, really friendly, very warm in public. But behind closed doors he seems like a different Mr. Trudeau,” said Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh politician with Canada’s New Democratic party.

“Who is the real Mr. Trudeau? Is it the one behind closed doors? The one when all the cameras are turned off and when no one sees, is that the real Mr. Trudeau? Because more and more that seems like it is.”

Trudeau in brownface

Trudeau was forced to apologize Wednesday after Time posted a photo of him wearing brownface when he was a teacher in 2001.

“I shouldn’t have done it. I should have known better, but I didn’t. And I’m really sorry,” he told reporters on an airplane.

“It was something I didn’t think was racist at the time, but it was,” he added. “It was a dumb thing to do.”

Trudeau attended the event with friends and colleagues and was dressed as a character from “Aladdin,” said Zita Astravas, speaking on behalf of Trudeau’s party, the Liberal Party of Canada. He was wearing a turban.

In addition, Trudeau told reporters he also wore makeup when he dressed up for a talent show in high school and sang “Day-O,” a song made popular by Harry Belafonte in the 1950s.

Late Wednesday, CNN partner CTV News obtained a second photo from a source, who says it is a picture of Trudeau in a yearbook at Brebeuf College.

Trudeau came in for criticism from people across the political spectrum. His political rival, Conservative Andrew Scheer, said he was “extremely shocked and disappointed” to learn of the incident.

“Wearing brownface is an act of open mockery and racism,” Scheer said. “It was just as racist in 2001 as it is in 2019. What Canadians saw this evening was someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who’s not fit to govern this county.”