USA Today editor-in-chief admits 'horrible' mistake after she's linked to 'blackface' yearbook

The editor-in-chief of USA Today apologized Wednesday after the Arizona newspaper she used to manage uncovered her past role in publishing a college yearbook that included a photo of people in blackface.

The photo in question was published in the 1988-89 Arizona State University yearbook, of which Nicole Carroll was an editor. It shows two people at a Halloween party dressed in makeup as Mike Tyson and his then-wife Robin Givens, according to USA Today, based in McLean, Va.

“Clearly the 21-year-old me who oversaw the book and that page didn’t understand how offensive the photo was. I wish I had,” Carroll said in a statement. “Today’s 51-year-old me of course understands and is crushed by this mistake. It is horrible, and of course the photo should not have been published.”

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Carroll said she has no memory of publishing the photo but regretted it nonetheless.

The image was discovered as part of a review of 900 yearbooks at 120 schools across the nation by USA Today and other Gannett-chain newspapers. Reporters collected around 200 examples of racist or offensive material at schools in 25 states, according to the Arizona Republic, where Carroll was editor in chief before heading USA Today.

The uncovered images show students in blackface, dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes or dressed clothing depicting Native American sterotypes.

Blackface has long been viewed as offensive and a racist depiction of black people.

The Gannett review was prompted by recent scandals in Virginia, where Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and state Attorney General Mark Herrings have both been accused of wearing blackface while in medical school and college, respectively.

Joy Behar, co-host of ABC's “The View,” also recently had to explain a photo of herself dressed as a “beautiful African woman” at a Halloween party from years ago. And past blackface images of celebrities such as talk-show hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon also have surfaced.

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The two people pictured in the 1989 Arizona State photo are wearing black makeup – one is shirtless and has boxing gloves strapped around his shoulders and the other is wearing a shirt, bikini and sunglasses. The paper did not publish the photo.

In a statement, Arizona State said the image is a “sad reminder that this kind of insensitivity was all too common in past decades.”

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Carroll graduated from the Arizona State in 1991. The Republic won a 2017 Pulitzer Prize under her leadership of the paper. She was named editor-in-chief of USA Today last year.

In a Wednesday column, she wrote that she has "championed diversity and inclusion in our newsroom and in our news coverage” and “will continue to have, newsroom conversations about how we can further educate ourselves and our readers about race, history and prejudice, as well as the serious issues facing women, the LGBTQ community and all marginalized groups.”