Note: The photo in question is included in the bottom half of this article.
WASHINGTON – A photo appearing on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page shows a man dressed in blackface and another person wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood.
The photo was one of several listed on Northam’s medical school yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical School from the year he graduated in 1984. The school confirmed the photo’s authenticity and provided a copy of the page to USA TODAY.
“We can confirm that the picture in question does appear in a 1984 student-produced publication,” the school said in a statement to USA TODAY.
It was first discovered Friday afternoon by conservative news outlet Big League Politics.
Northam released a statement Friday, apologizing for his decision to dress in such a costume and vowed to work toward healing the damage he’d caused from this.
“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and do the hurt that decision caused then and now,” Northam said.
He continued: “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.”
The apology might not be enough for some as Republicans in the state have already called for Northam’s resignation.
“Racism has no place in Virginia,” said Jack Wilson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”
The yearbook page shows several photos, including of the future Democratic governor posing with a sports car, another of him in a cowboy hat and a third of him in a suit.
A fourth photo shows two people holding a drink. One is a man wearing plaid pants, a suit with a bowtie and a hat. His face is painted black.
The second person is wearing a full white Ku Klux Klan robe, complete with a tall hood and holes cut out for the person’s eyes and mouth.
While Northam, who leads a state that less than two years ago was at the epicenter of racial and anti-semitic tensions during the deadly Unite the Right rally, confirmed he was in the photo, it’s unclear which costume he is wearing.
Under the photo, lists Northam’s interest in pediatrics and a quote.
“There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world, so I think I’ll have another beer,” the quote says.
The revelation of the yearbook photo comes at a particularly partisan time in Virginia. The state has been battling over a Democratic-led bill that would loosen restrictions on late-term abortions, allowing a woman to get an abortion well into the third trimester if the mother was physically or mentally at risk.
This week the bill failed to be voted out of committee but the uproar hasn’t stopped.
On Wednesday, Northam voiced support for the bill, telling local radio station WTOP that third-trimester abortions were rare.
When asked whether the bill would allow a mother to abort a pregnancy even if she was about to, or in the early stages of giving birth, Northam said yes and explained how it would be handled.
If a woman is in labor, “the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians & mother,” Northam said, arguing that the government shouldn’t be involved in these types of decisions and should be left up to women and physicians.
Northam’s comments sparked more controversy with Republicans arguing the governor was advocating for infanticide.