Virginia governor asked to resign after blackface photo

Note: The photo in question is included in the bottom half of this article. 

Calls for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign are coming from all sides of the political aisle following the revelation Friday that Northam appeared in a photo in his medical school yearbook page that showed 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. 

While Northam apologized and confirmed he was in the photo, though he did not say what costume he was dressed in, the revelation led to instant condemnation. 

“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. 

The apologies, though, did not stop organizations and politicians from demanding that Northam resign as governor, something he seemed to push back against in his statement. 

“I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage that this conduct has caused,” Northam said. “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. ” 

That wasn’t enough for many and a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers, organizations and prominent political figures blasted the governor. 

“Black face in any manner is always racist and never okay. 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,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a written statement. 

Republicans and Democrats, including some presidential contenders in the 2020 race, joined together to call for his resignation.

“It doesn’t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat. This behavior was racist and unconscionable. Governor Northam should resign,” Julian Castro, a Democrat running for president, wrote on Twitter. 

Sen. Kamala Harris, another Democrat running in 2020, agreed. 

“Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government,” she wrote on Twitter. “The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.

Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina who recently spoke out against Rep. Steve King’s remarks about white supremacism, also denounced Northam’s yearbook fiasco. 

“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,” Scott wrote on Twitter. “The people of VA will make their voices heard;cI hope they will shout far & wide that there are consequences for such showcases of prejudice & hate.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy joined the call for Northam to resign while appearing on “All in with Chris Hayes” on MSNBC Friday night.

“We’re the party of Barack Obama, we’re the party of inclusion,” Murphy said. 

Murphy described it as unacceptable behavior in 2019, and that it was just as unacceptable in 1984. 

The incoming head of the Democratic Governors Association, Murphy said he speaks of Northam’s yearbook controversy with a “heavy heart.”

“I say it with a heavy heart because I know him and I believe he’s a good man,” New Jersey’s governor said. 

Planned Parenthood tweeted a statement late Friday night telling Northam to resign. 

Members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus say they are “still processing” the news that Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam appeared in a photo in which one person is dressed in blackface and another is wearing a full Ku Klux Klan uniform.

In a news release issued Friday night, the caucus said “what has been revealed is disgusting, reprehensible, and offensive.”

It went on to say that while the caucus has “no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent interests,” members “are still processing what we have seen about the Governor.”

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. 

Contributing: Associated Press; Joshua Jongsma, North Jersey Record



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