Another prominent liberal leader has been engulfed in a racism and blackface scandal, this time Canada’s very progressive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Although all the networks covered it, they made sure to frame the story as conservatives “pouncing” on the politician. CBS This Morning actually managed to ignore an ideological label for Trudeau.
On NBC’s Today, Craig Melvin introduced the story this way: “The re-election campaign of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is suddenly in turmoil after a photo of him surfaced wearing brownface. While he has apologized overnight, his rivals have been quick to pounce.”
On ABC’s Good Morning America, Terry Moran spun the response of Canada’s conservatives: “Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, Trudeau's political opponent in next month's election, pounced, saying, ‘The photo shows a complete lack of judgment and integrity in someone not fit to govern.’”
On MSNBC, Ron Allen echoed, “Conservatives are very strong [in Canada] and they are of course pouncing on this as an example of him being inauthentic, they're calling this reprehensible.” (All that pouncing must be exhausting.)
CBS This Morning never mentioned that Trudeau is very liberal. Instead, reporter Jericka Duncan only hinted at it, touting his support for “diversity”:
Trudeau has built his reputation on the promotion of freedom and diversity in Canada. So, for many, this offensive photo of one of the world's most powerful leaders likely comes as a surprise and a disappointment.
Trudeau dressed in blackface for an Arabian Nights-themed party in 2001. Duncan noted another example: “Trudeau also admitted he wore brown face as a high school student. This additional photo appears to confirm his story that he used dark make-up to imitate singer Harry Belafonte at a talent show.” On MSNBC, Ron Allen warned, “It may even get worse, Andrea, we have reports that there might be a third incident, a piece of videotape.”
Allen appeared shocked that the liberal Trudeau would do such a thing, marveling, “[It’s] very much against the brand, the image, what we think of him.”
On Good Morning America, Moran, unlike the journalists at CBS, identified Trudeau’s ideology:
Justin Trudeau is a proud progressive. He's emphasized inclusiveness and tolerance as prime minister of Canada. But now he's just the latest politician caught up in an episode from years ago where he darkened his skin for fun.
NBC’s Anne Thompson, echoing Allen, called progressivism incompatible with racism: “The photo at odds with progressive stances on social issues, welcoming refugees and supporting minority groups during his nearly four years as prime minister.”
In February of 2019, when Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was engulfed in his own blackface scandal, CBS and NBC initially dropped the partisan identification, faililng to label him a Democrat.
Transcripts are below. Click “expand” to read more.
CBS This Morning
7:05:49 to 7:08:40
ANTHONY MASON: Switching gears, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is asking for forgiveness in the middle of his re-election campaign after a photo of him wearing brown face was made public. The picture published in a Time magazine article on line appears in a 2001 yearbook from a private school where Trudeau used to teach. He says the costume was from a party with an Arabian Nights theme. Our national correspondent Jericka Duncan is with us. Jericka, how are Canadians responding to the photo?
JERICKA DUNCAN: Well, they're not happy. For starters, Trudeau has built his reputation on the promotion of freedom and diversity in Canada. So, for many, this offensive photo of one of the world's most powerful leaders likely comes as a surprise and a disappointment.
PRIME MINISTER JUST TRUDEAU: This was something that was unacceptable. And yes, racist.
DUNCAN: Prime minister Justin Trudeau said he is deeply sorry for a photo showing him covered in dark make-up. He said it was part of an Aladdin costume for a party nearly 20 years ago.
TRUDEAU: I take responsibility for my decision to do that. I shouldn't have done. It I should have known better.
DUNCAN: Trudeau also admitted he wore brown face as a high school student. This additional photo appears to confirm his story that he used dark make-up to imitate singer Harry Belafonte at a talent show.
JAGMEET SINGH (New Democratic Party Leader and Canadian Parliament member): It's making a mockery of someone and what their lived experiences are. I think he to answer for it.
DUNCAN: New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh called the 2001 image troubling and insulting With Canada's federal election just over a month away, the fallout could cast a shadow over Trudeau's campaign.
REPORTER: Why didn't you tell people sooner?
TRUDEAU: I'm talking about it now.
DUNCAN: That question comes after U.S. politicians have been called out as racists for wearing dark make-up in the past.
RALPH NORTHAM: I don't have any excuses for that I did.
DUNCAN: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was accused of wearing black face in this photo from the 1980s. He talked about the controversy with Gayle King in February.
NORTHAM: The man you're looking at and talking to right now is not who I was.
DUNCAN: As a leader on the international stage, Trudeau says his focus now is moving forward.
TRUDEAU: I think what is important is that, yes, people get challenged on mistakes they've made in the past. That they recognize those mistakes and pledge to do better. That's what we expect of people.
DUNCAN: In a statement, Conservative Party and official opposition later Andrew Scheer said “Trudeau is not fit to govern.” When asked by reporters if he would resign from office, Trudeau did not offer a direct response. I think that it would be interesting, you know what you've done, you know what pictures you've taken. If people would come out ahead of this stuff, you had almost 20 years to say, “You know what? Let me talk about this now.”
KING: Exactly right.
MASON: I did this. I made a mistake.
DUNCAN: It makes it worse when people find it.
KING: I hope others are listening thinking, you know, “Jericka's right. Maybe I have something to say.”
MASON: “Maybe I should look in my yearbook.”
KING: Yes, yes. Thank you, Jericka.
7:30:41 to 7:30:49
KING: Canada's prime minister running for re-election apologizes for a photo of him in brown face.
SINGH: It’s insulting.
Good Morning America
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Blackface backlash. Justin Trudeau now in hot water over this photo showing him in dark makeup. The Canadian Prime Minister now admits it was, quote, racist. His apology this morning.
7:12:55 to 7:15:18
ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to that new trouble for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. A picture of him wearing dark makeup dressed as Aladdin at a party in 2001. Trudeau himself calling it racist and apologizing. Terry Moran has more on all this for us. Good morning, Terry.
TERRY MORAN: Good morning. Justin Trudeau is a proud progressive. He's emphasized inclusiveness and tolerance as prime minister of Canada. But now he's just the latest politician caught up in an episode from years ago where he darkened his skin for fun. Blackface. And he's in a tight election. The controversy erupted overnight, forcing Justin Trudeau to speak out and try to explain taking questions on board his campaign plane.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU: In 2001 when I was a teacher I was in Vancouver. I attended an end of the year gala where the theme was Arabian Nights and I dressed up in Aladdin costume and put makeup on. I shouldn't have done that. I should have known better but I didn't and I'm really sorry.
MORAN: It was Time magazine that uncovered the 18-year-old photo from a yearbook at West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver where Trudeau was teaching when he was 29 years old.
TRUDEAU: I take responsibility for my decision to do that. I shouldn't have done it. I should have known better. It was something that I didn't think was racist at the time but now I recognize it was something racist to do.
MORAN: Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, Trudeau's political opponent in next month's election pounced saying, “The photo shows a complete lack of judgment and integrity in someone not fit to govern.” It got worse, answering a question last night Trudeau admitted to wearing blackface while in high school while performing "Day O," a Jamaican folk song but said he has fought against racism and intolerance his entire life.
TRUDEAU: I have worked all my life to try and create opportunities for people, to fight against racism and intolerance and I can just stand here and say that I made a mistake when I was younger and I wish I hadn't.
MORAN: It's hard to say how all this will impact next month's election but Trudeau is already struggling in the polls and battling scandal on another front and now this, Robin.
7:31:14 to 7:31:27
STEPHANOPOULOS: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is apologizing after a photo surfaced of him in dark makeup dressed as Aladdin back in 2001 when he was a teacher. Trudeau is calling it racist saying he should not have done it.
HODA KOTB: Stunning scandal. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau apologizes overnight after a photo emerges of him wearing brown face at a party.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I should have known better. I didn’t. I’m sorry.
KOTB: And he admits, it wasn’t the only time. Trudeau's re-election campaign thrown into chaos as a rival say he's not fit to lead.
7:05:00 to 7:08:05
CRAIG MELVIN: Another major story this morning. The re-election campaign of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is suddenly in turmoil after a photo of him surfaced wearing brownface. While he has apologized overnight, his rivals have been quick to pounce. NBC’s Anne Thompson has been following this.
ANNE THOMPSON: Good morning, Craig. Good morning, Hoda. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's campaign to lead Canada into the future could be derailed by that photo from his past. It is a picture that has many in Canada wondering this morning who the Prime Minister truly is? This morning, a major controversy in Canada as accusations of racism surround its Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This photo newly discovered by Time magazine hoes him in brownface nearly two decades ago.
TRUDEAU: It was something I didn't think was racist at the time but now I recognize it was something racist to do.
THOMPSON: The picture from the 2000-2001 yearbook from the private school where Trudeau was a teacher shows the then-29-year-old wearing a turban, robes and dark makeup. At a hastily-arranged press conference, Trudeau made no excuses.
TRUDEAU: I attended an end of the year gala where the theme was Arabian Nights and I dressed up in Aladdin costume and put makeup on. I disappointed in myself. I’m pissed off at myself for having done it. I wish I hadn’t done it, but I did it. And I apologize for it.
THOMPSON: Trudeau also admitting it’s not the only incident.
TRUDEAU: When I was in high school, I dressed up at a talent show and sang Day O with makeup on.
THOMPSON: That song a hit for Harry Belafonte.
THOMPSON: Now this scandal threatens his re-election campaign.
TRUDEAU: Canadians once again get to vote for the kind of Canada they want to live in.
THOMPSON: The photo at odds with progressive stances on social issues, welcoming refugees and supporting minority groups during his nearly four years as prime minister.
TRUDEAU: I am going to be thinking about how much harder I’m going to have to continue to work to demonstrate to Canadians I am focused on building a better world with less discrimination less intolerance and less racism. I’m going to be ask Canadians to forgive me for what I did.
MELVIN: So, Anne, the election coming up, if I am not mistaken, just from a month from now, how much of an impact will this scandal have on his chance?
THOMPSON: Well, it’s going to have a big impact because a lot of his support comes from minority groups in Canada, particularly the Sikh community and the Muslim community. And both of whom, this morning, have said that they are disappointed and that they felt that what he did is insulting to their communities. So, he has got a lot of mending fences to do here. In Canada, they only have 40 days for a campaign, unlike our country. So the election will be on the 21st. So he has got about a month to make up, to apologize and to see if Canadians will forgive him.