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Trudeau can look to U.S. politicians amid brownface scandal

A few Southern politicians responded to similar scandals recently with denials, apologies, and promises. Most of them have managed to stay in office.
This April 2001 photo, which appeared in a newsletter from the West Point Grey Academy, shows a costumed Justin Trudeau, his face and hands darkened by makeup, attending an "Arabian Nights" gala. The academy is a private school in Vancouver, B.C., where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. [(West Point Grey Academy/The Canadian Press via AP)]
Published Sep. 19

Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau need only look to the United States for lessons on how to survive the furor over a photo of him in brownface at a costume party nearly two decades ago.

A few Southern politicians responded to similar scandals recently with denials, apologies, and promises. Most of them have managed to stay in office.

RELATED: ‘Deeply sorry’ Justin Trudeau begs forgiveness for brownface photo

Here are some cases:

VIRGINIA GOV. RALPH NORTHAM

FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2019, file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, pauses during a news conference in the Governors Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. Northam, a Democrat elected in a state that was once capital of the Confederacy, faced pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook in February. It showed a hard-to-identify young man in blackface standing beside someone dressed in a Ku Klux Klan costume. [STEVE HELBER | AP]

A Democrat elected in a state that was the capital of the Confederacy, Northam faced intense pressure from his own party to resign after a racist picture from his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced in February. It showed a young man in blackface next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.

Northam promptly apologized without saying which one he was. Then a day later, he denied being in the photograph at all, while admitting he wore blackface as Michael Jackson at a dance contest decades ago.

He clung to the office and soon rebounded after saying he wanted to help heal Virginia’s lingering racial wounds and use the rest of his term to promote equality. This month he appointed a new director of diversity to make the government more inclusive.

A review by the medical school failed to identify those in the photograph.

___

VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL MARK HERRING

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2018, file photo, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring attends a news conference near the White House in Washington. While national attention was focused and rumors were sweeping through Virginia’s Capitol, Herring revealed to black lawmakers during a meeting that he had worn brown makeup during a college bash in 1980. He later issued a public statement. [ANDREW HARNIK | AP]

While Northam's career hung in the balance, Herring revealed to black lawmakers that he had worn blackface during a college bash in 1980.

Members of the black caucus and the state's congressional delegation cited Herring's personal apologies in arguing the Democrat deserved a chance to remain in office and regain the public trust.

Herring has since kept a lower profile, refusing to answer reporters' questions about the incident and limiting his public appearances.

___

ALABAMA GOV. KAY IVEY

FILE - In this March 4, 2019, file photo, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey speaks at a news conference in Beauregard, Ala. Ivey apologized after a 1967 college radio interview surfaced of her then-fiance Ben LaRavia describing her wearing "black paint all over her face" in a skit at a Baptist student organization. Her office released the audio after university officials discovered it while working to preserve old records. [VASHA HUNT | AP]

Ivey denied ever wearing blackface until a former boyfriend's words came back to haunt her.

Ivey apologized last month after a 1967 college radio interview surfaced of her then-fiance Ben LaRavia describing her wearing "black paint all over her face" in a skit at a Baptist student organization. Her office released the audio after university officials discovered it while working to preserve old records.

Ivey said she didn't remember the skit and would not resign.

Ivey has faced little if any blowback from the state's deeply conservative Republican power structure, although the Alabama NAACP said she should quit.

___

FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE MICHAEL ERTEL

FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2013, file photo, Michael Ertel speaks during a panel discussion on election problems at a pre-legislative news conference in Tallahassee, Fla. Ertel, Florida’s top elections official, resigned as secretary of state after a photo surfaced showing him in blackface, dressed up as a victim of Hurricane Katrina. [STEVE CANNON | AP]

Ertel, Florida's top elections official, resigned as secretary of state in January just weeks into the job after a photo surfaced showing him in blackface, dressed up as a victim of Hurricane Katrina.

He said in a Facebook post that what he did in 2005 was stupid and that he is a better man now. "For those who have not received a personal apology yet — I'm sorry," he wrote.

Ertel also said that someone made the photos public out of revenge but didn’t elaborate.

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