Written by Daniela Germano for The Canadian Press
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau got the wrong kind of international attention Thursday as late-night talk show hosts south of the border took jabs at him for dressing in brown and blackface when he was younger.
As part of his opening segment, “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah said the reason Trudeau has been popular in the U.S. is because he’s been a women’s rights and environmental advocate, and he has connected with minority communities.
“But now we are learning that he may have connected with minority communities a little too much,” Noah joked.
A black-and-white photo from a 2001 yearbook shows Trudeau at an “Arabian Nights” -themed gala event at a Vancouver private school where he once taught.
In the photo, published Wednesday by Time magazine, Trudeau is clad in a turban and robe with his face, hands and neck covered in dark makeup.
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Trudeau, who is seeking re-election as prime minister, apologized profusely afterward, calling the action racist, although he said he wasn’t aware it was racist at the time.
Noah, a South African comedian, joked, “if you are going to darken your skin, at least get the colour right.”
“Trudeau isn’t dressed as Aladdin, he’s dressed as Aladdin doing blackface,” Noah said.
He went on to say Trudeau didn’t need the brownface to make the costume work at the event.
“No one is going to see him and be like, ‘Oh, white skin, are you the snowman from ‘Frozen?'”
Trudeau has also admitted to wearing blackface in a high school performance where he sang Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day O).”
Thursday morning, Global News published a short video of a young Trudeau again in blackface, sticking out his tongue for the camera and raising his arms over his head. The Liberals said that video was from the early 1990s, putting him in his early 20s.
The Liberal leader was also mentioned on the “Conan” talk show Thursday night.
“A big scandal up in Canada,” host Conan O’Brien said as some audience members cheered.
“I know you are Canadian, but this is not good news for you,” he said to them. “Canadians are just so happy to be mentioned.”
Unlike some of the others, “Late Night with Seth Meyers” didn’t show Trudeau’s brownface photo.
The photo “is so bad that Canadians travelling in Europe are going to start telling people they’re American,” host Seth Meyers said.
Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert also used his opening segment on “The Late Show” to mention the controversy.
“A photo has emerged of Trudeau wearing brownface at a party. This is pretty bad,” Colbert said.
“And I just want to say, it’s not us this time. Suck it, Canada!”