The progressive reputation of Justin Trudeau is in ruins Thursday morning after a third instance emerged of the Canadian prime minister wearing racist dark face-paint.
The first photo that surfaced, showing Trudeau in 2001 wearing brownface as part of an Aladdin costume, would have been enough to turn some voters off him forever. But, within hours, a second photo was published of him wearing blackface to sing the Jamaican folk song “Day-O,” followed by a third video of him sticking his tongue out wearing dark makeup.
What was initially assumed to be a deeply stupid and offensive costume at one theme party now looks like it was just one instance of a deeply troubling habit.
Trudeau admitted he “made a mistake” late Wednesday after the first photo was published. That showed him wearing brownface makeup to an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala at the Vancouver private school where he taught in 2001.
The picture, found in West Point Grey Academy’s yearbook and published by Time magazine, shows Trudeau with his face, neck, and hands darkened—along with him wearing a turban and robes. While he was not the only one pictured in costume at the gala, he appeared to be the only one pictured in brownface.
“Obviously I regret that I did it, I’m really sorry I did it,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday evening. “I take responsibility for my decision to do that. I should have known better... I didn’t know it was racist at the time.”
Media relations lead of the Liberal Party of Canada, Zita Astravas, confirmed to Time that it was Trudeau in the photo. “It was a photo taken while he was teaching in Vancouver, at the school’s annual dinner which had a costume theme of ‘Arabian Nights.’ He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin,” Astravas said.
In addition to the yearbook photo, he also disclosed to reporters that he once participated in a high school play “with makeup on”—but he did not elaborate further. That photo was then found shortly afterward.
The third video, published Thursday morning by Canada’s Global News, appears to show Trudeau’s face covered in dark makeup while he sticks his tongue out. It appears his arms and legs are also covered in dark makeup. A senior member of the Liberal campaign reportedly told the network that it was Trudeau in the video but didn’t comment further.
The photos, which surfaced as Trudeau is ramping up his re-election campaign, sparked an outpouring of criticism on Twitter, where many accused the Canadian prime minister of racism.
Trudeau announced his re-election bid this month amid accusations he meddled in a corruption case. When asked by reporters if he would consider resigning over the photo, he said only that the incident “calls for important conversations.”
“I have worked all my life to create opportunities for people to fight against racism, I can stand here and say I made a mistake... I should have known better then, but I didn’t and I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m going to be asking Canadians to forgive me... I’m disappointed and pissed off at myself.”
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh blasted the prime minister, claiming that his public calls to fight discrimination and his behavior in private were at odds.
“Who is the real Mr. Trudeau? Is it the one behind closed doors, the one when the cameras are turned off that no one sees?” Singh asked, according to The Globe and Mail. “Is that the real Mr. Trudeau? Because more and more, it seems like it is.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims also said Trudeau wearing brownface was a “reprehensible” act that “hearkens back to a history of racism, slavery, and an Orientalist mythology that is unacceptable.”
“While we recognize that people can change and evolve over two decades, it is critical that the prime minister immediately and unequivocally apologize,” executive director Mustafa Farooq told the newspaper.
Earlier this year, a similar yearbook photo of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wearing a racist costume was uncovered—prompting calls for him to resign. He is currently still in office. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey also recently apologized for participating in a blackface skit in college.