OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – With the federal election about a month away, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is in damage control mode on Thursday, as he grapples with the fallout from multiple bombshell reports showing him in brown and blackface.
But what impact, if any, would racist images — dating back to as early as the 1990s — have on the outcome of the Oct. 21 vote? Prior to news of a third instance of Trudeau shown with racist makeup on, one expert said it likely wouldn’t do much damage to the Liberal campaign.
“Whatever you think of this, this is a diversion for a day and a half from the Liberal message, and unnecessary,” explained Allan Bonner, a crisis manager and former adviser to a number of premiers.
However, a new video emerging just feeds into the Conservative narrative that Trudeau isn’t as advertised, Bonner said.
“The fact that more events are coming forward in different formats, i.e. still picture and video, keeps the story alive for awhile,” he added.
Many people fired back at Trudeau’s Wednesday apology, with one Twitter user saying: “KISS wore makeup, you were in blackface.”
KISS wore makeup, you were in blackface.
— RC (@Renaudc67) September 19, 2019
Dr. Annette Henry, a race relations expert at the University of British Columbia, says Trudeau saying sorry is not good enough.
“For me, what he has portrayed himself to be and what he is are quite different, in that he really doesn’t understand issues of race and culture as much as he has said,” she says.
“He’s gone to school, he has a good education – he should know better,” Henry says. “His conscience should have pricked him. He should know better that this is inappropriate. Everyone in that photo is complicit.”
She adds while it is a good thing that he apologized, it could have been stronger. He repeated himself and kept to the party line.
“He just seemed like he’s unconscious of these issues. I mean, even going to India with his family and dressing up in Indian garb – I just said, what is he thinking?
Meantime, some voters around Vancouver didn’t appear to be too bothered by the news.
“I don’t really care about what he did in the past. We should focus on what’s happening now,” one person said.
“He wasn’t the prime minister at that time, so for me, he was young,” another added. “As everyone, when you’re young, you’re a bit stupid.”
On how Trudeau and the Liberal Party handled the crisis prior to Thursday morning, Bonner said they followed protocol.
“The tradition is you do abjectly apologize quickly,” he said . “The only person to get away with not doing that who comes to my mind is Senator John McCain who kind of slough off his controversial pastor a couple of elections ago. But that’s what you have to do, that’s the normal thing in crisis management, unless it is subsequently revealed that you didn’t actually do what you’re being accused of.”
Trudeau has been blasted online and in traditional media for his decision to wear brownface at the “Arabian Nights”-themed party at a Vancouver private school, where he once taught.
At this point, pollsters say it’s going to take a couple of days until we know if there’s any lasting damage to the Liberals’ re-election prospects.
–With files from Martin MacMahon, Jamie Pulfer, Sonia Aslam, Alison Bailey and The Canadian Press