Mayoral hopeful Michael Kudar apologized Wednesday for wearing blackface at a 2011 Pinedale Halloween party, two weeks after telling a reporter that he didn’t.

Asked why he gave a different answer then, Kudar blamed a lapse of memory.

“I could not remember,” the mayoral candidate told the Jackson Hole Daily. His wife, Serese, he said, “reminded me that I did participate, and it was a bad judgement.”

The Daily called Kudar to clarify after KHOL broke a related story Tuesday.

A 2011 “Grins and Gripes” column in the Sublette Examiner newspaper called out Kudar, who lived in Pinedale at the time, for doing so. The writer of that column, Samantha Luvisi, told KHOL she had seen Kudar wearing blackface at a party.

Blackface is a practice in which people wear black or brown makeup to darken their skin, impersonating people of color. It has been denounced as racist since its origins in the 1800s, when minstrel performers began painting their faces black to portray Black people, who were enslaved at the time, as lazy, ignorant and hypersexual, among other negative stereotypes.

The practice is widely condemned for reinforcing those stereotypes, and celebrities and politicians alike have come under fire for donning blackface. Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel both recently apologized for performing in blackface to portray Black celebrities.

On Wednesday, Kudar apologized for his actions.

“I wholeheartedly and openly apologize with love of the people of Jackson and the state of Wyoming — and will continue to listen, learn and strive to be better together,” he said.

Following an anonymous complaint, the Jackson Hole News&Guide asked Kudar two weeks ago if he had worn blackface at a party.

Michael and Serese Kudar, who joined her husband for the interview at the Kudar Motel, said it was Serese who had worn blackface, dressing as Foxy Brown, a character played by Pam Grier in a 1970s blaxploitation film of the same name.

“It was me,” Serese Kudar said, adding later that she “didn’t know it was blackface until after the fact. That’s how ignorant I was.”

“It wasn’t me,” Michael Kudar said.

Asked again to confirm that he did not, in fact, wear blackface, Kudar reiterated the same thing.

“No, no,” he said. “It wasn’t me.”

Then, on Wednesday, Kudar issued a statement on Buckrail taking responsibility for the insensitive costume.

“Ten years ago, my wife and I dressed in Halloween costumes that were culturally inappropriate. I apologize for our insensitive actions,” Kudar wrote. “I acknowledge the pain I may have caused and I take full responsibility. That was then and this is now.”

The Daily reached Kudar for comment Wednesday afternoon to address the discrepancy.

Asked whether he knew of the practice’s implications in 2011, Kudar said he didn’t.

“No, I was not aware of blackface at that time,” he said.

Asked why he felt it necessary to make an apology, Kudar deferred to comments his wife had made in the earlier interview. Serese Kudar did not explicitly answer that question.

The mayoral candidate did not elaborate further and instead said: “What I know now, I would never have ever even thought of doing that. Period.”

Though he acknowledged that some people would think about him as such, Kudar maintained he is not a racist.

“I am far from it,” he said. “I am not.”

This article has been updated to clarify the Black celebrity Serese Kudar dressed as in 2011. — Eds.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Previously the Scene editor, Billy Arnold made the switch to the county beat where he's interested in exploring Teton County as a model for the rest of the West. When he can, he still writes about art, music and whatever else suits his fancy.

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