Virginia Governor Claims Racist Yearbook Photo Is Not Him, But Admits To Darkening His Face To Look Like Michael Jackson
"This was not me in that picture. That was not Ralph Northam," the Virginia Governor stated.
Update (February 3, 2019): Governor Ralph Northam has denied posing in the recently resurfaced 1984 medical school yearbook photo depicting one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hooded robe.
During a press conference on Saturday, Northam stood by his statement of not being in the photo but did admit to wearing shoe polish to darken his face to look like Michael Jackson at a 1984 dance party.
"I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo," Northam said. "This was not me in that picture. That was not Ralph Northam."
The 59-year-old then spoke at length in the conference about taking part and winning a dancing competition in San Antonio where he dressed as the King of Pop.
The Guardian reports the controversial and racist photo resurfaced on a website created by former Breitbart employees. This political attack, some have called it, may stem from the Democratic governor's support of an abortion bill that would change the time allowed for the procedure.
As the calls for his resignation grow, Northam refuses to step aside so that Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax could take his place. Fairfax would become the second Black governor in the state's history. Northam apologized to the 39-year-old after the photo hit the net. Although Fairfax commented on the picture, he did not call for Northam's resignation.
“I’ve known Ralph for years," Fairfax told The Washington Post. "… We can generally rely on what each other said to be accurate … I can’t speak to what happened to him 30 years ago in medical school.”
While top Democrats are seemingly abandoning him and Republicans are continuing to bash him, Northam has not indicated he will resign. It is expected Northam will continue his term.
Original: A political shakeup could be coming for Virginia after calls for Governor Ralph Northam to resign for taking part in a racist photo featuring blackface and a Ku Klux Klan robe.
The Washington Post reports a yearbook photo from Northam's time as a medical student at Eastern Virginia Medical School depicting two men — one in blackface and another in a KKK robe — resurfaced online Friday. First taken in 1984, the Democratic governor did not acknowledge which man he was in the photo. However, he did apologize for his part in the racist picture."I am 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," Northam said in a video message via Twitter.
My fellow Virginians, earlier today I released a statement apologizing for behavior in my past that falls far short of the standard you set for me when you elected me to be your governor. I believe you deserve to hear directly from me. pic.twitter.com/1rSw1oxfrX— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) February 2, 2019
Northam graduated from the medical school the same year the photo was taken. In another yearbook, Northam was also called "Coonman," which many people found offensive and racist.
"I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage that this conduct has caused," Northam continued. "I am ready to do that important work. This first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor."
The 59-year-old is currently facing mounting pressure to resign from in-state Democrats, the Virginia Black Caucus and, most notably, Democratic presidential candidates. Northam is currently in his last term and plans on remaining in office.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson released a written statement blasting the governor for his past actions. He, too, calls for his resignation.
“Blackface in any manner is always racist and never okay," he said. "No matter the party affiliation, we can not stand for such behavior, which is why the NAACP is calling for the resignation of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.”
Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) took to Twitter to ask Northam to "step aside so the public can heal and move forward together" from America's racist past.
Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 2, 2019
Others followed suit, including Republican Senator Tim Scott (SC).
To be clear, while a quick apology is good, it does not excuse the choices made by @GovernorVA as an adult enrolled in medical school. The people of VA will make their voices heard;I hope they will shout far&wide that there are consequences for such showcases of prejudice&hate.— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) February 1, 2019
Just hours after announcing his bid for president, New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker tweeted he wants Northam to resign.
These images arouse centuries of anger, anguish, and racist violence and they’ve eroded all confidence in Gov. Northam’s ability to lead. We should expect more from our elected officials. He should resign.— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) February 2, 2019
Former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro also believes Northam should resign.
It doesn’t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat. This behavior was racist and unconscionable. Governor Northam should resign.— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) February 2, 2019
Waiting in the wings if Northam steps down is Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax. He would become the second Black governor in the state's history.
There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 2, 2019
Fairfax made headlines sitting out of the state's General Robert E. Lee tributes two years in a row.
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