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Trudeau’s ‘profoundly stupid’ past may not be an election-killer – but he needs to stop apologizing: damage control expert

Federal Election 2019: Party leaders, Canadians react after images surface of Trudeau in racist makeup

Justin Trudeau’s racist makeup scandal will touch a raw nerve for many Canadians, according to a damage control expert… but he needs to stop apologizing so much.

Eric Dezenhall, CEO and co-founder of Washington-based crisis communications firm Dezenhall Resources, told Global News the Prime Minister’s repeated apologies might actually hurt him in the long run.

“There’s no question that he needed to apologize,” said Dezenhall.

“The question is whether or not there’s any benefit to apologize 72 times versus 68 times, and I do think there’s a real question about the value of that.”

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Dezenhall said there’s no correlation between how many times a person admits guilt and how quickly a scandal will go away.

Justin Trudeau appears in a photo taken in 2001 that was published by Time magazine.
Justin Trudeau appears in a photo taken in 2001 that was published by Time magazine. Time Magazine

Two photos of Trudeau in brown or blackface surfaced Wednesday night.

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READ MORE: How the Trudeau brownface bombshell hit the Liberal campaign media bus

The first, released by Time magazine, shows the Liberal leader in dark makeup while wearing a turban at an “Arabian Nights”-themed party in 2001.

The second instance, which he admitted to while apologizing for the first, is a photo of him at a high school talent show performing the song Day-O “with makeup on.”

An additional video, taken at some point in the 1990s, was obtained exclusively by Global News, shows Trudeau covered in what appears to be dark makeup and raising his hands in the air while laughing, sticking his tongue out and making faces.

WATCH: Justin Trudeau seen in blackface in Global News exclusive video

Justin Trudeau seen in blackface in Global News exclusive video
Justin Trudeau seen in blackface in Global News exclusive video

The Prime Minister made a campaign stop in Winnipeg Thursday afternoon and addressed the issue at length to a crowd of reporters at Old Market Square.

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READ MORE: Liberal campaign signs in B.C. defaced with blackface after Trudeau photos emerge

Dezenhall said most of his work is in the corporate arena, and the apologies he’s seen have often backfired.

“Every time there’s a corporate apology, 100 per cent of the time – not 99, 100 per cent of the time – it’s deemed to have been mishandled,” he said.

“Race is the cyanide pill of crisis management. It’s really, really rough to get out of.

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“With Twitter culture, no matter what you do, there’s no way anybody will be satisfied with it.”

Trudeau’s ability to recover from the scandal, Dezenhall said, may hinge on the fact that a large portion of the voting public is “tired of this stuff”.

A photo of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau in high school, at Montreal’s Le collège Jean-de-Brébeu, wearing blackface.
A photo of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau in high school, at Montreal’s Le collège Jean-de-Brébeu, wearing blackface. Credit: The Globe and Mail

“People put themselves in situations and ask themselves, ‘did I do anything stupid when I was younger?’ – even though he wasn’t actually that young.

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“There is something to be said for underscoring the difference between doing something profoundly stupid and whether there’s a track record of bigotry… and with him, I don’t think there is.”

WATCH: ‘I never should have done it’: Trudeau apologizes again after blackface video emerges
‘I never should have done it’: Trudeau apologizes again after blackface video emerges
‘I never should have done it’: Trudeau apologizes again after blackface video emerges