Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) has denied that he was featured in a racist photo that was on his page of his 1984 medical school yearbook, despite having previously admitted that he was featured in the photo of two students, seen side by side, one wearing blackface, the other in Ku Klux Klan robes.
When the photos initially began to circulate on Friday, Feb.1, Northam issued a press release apology, stating that he was “deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.”
Soon after his apology, several Democratic leaders called for Northam’s immediate resignation, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). The next morning, another tide of Democrats called for Northam’s resignation, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder.
Later on Saturday, Northam held a press conference from the Governor’s Mansion, stating that “I believe then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo.” Northam explained that “in my own statement yesterday, I conceded that based on the evidence presented to me at the time, the most likely explanation, that it was indeed me in the photo,” but claimed to have later confirmed with family and classmates that he was not featured in the photo.
Northam explained that his belief that he was not in the photo “stems from my clear memory of other mistakes I made in other parts of my life.” Northam went on to admit that in the same year, he darkened his face “as part of a Michael Jackson costume,” and expressed his regret of doing so. “You remember these things,” Northam concluded.
Following Saturday’s press conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Democratic Governors Association and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring called for Northam to resign. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus also amplified it’s call for Northam to resign, citing that “in light of his public admission and apology for his decision to appear in the photo, he has irrevocably lost the faith and trust of the people he was elected to serve.”
Former Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Sunday he believes Gov. Ralph Northam will resign soon, stating, “Ralph will do the right thing for the commonwealth of Virginia,”McAuliffe said on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper. “He will put Virginia first. And I think that will happen relatively soon.”
Should Northam choose to resign, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax would ascend to the seat of the Governorship. Biden’s call for Northam to resign indicated that “Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now.” Northam would be the first Governor of Virginia to resign from office since the Civil War.
Thus far, Northam has declined any notion of resigning the Governorship, stating that “all I can do is what I have always done, and that is to listen, to be open with people.” Northam did not deny the future possibility of resigning, stating that “if we get to the point where we feel we are not effective, that we are not efficient… then we will revisit and make decisions.”