Update, Saturday, 6:59 p.m.: Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Rep. Bobby Scott, the longest-serving member of Virginia’s congressional delegation, have joined most of their fellow Democrats in calling for Northam to step down.
“After we watched his press conference today, we called Governor Northam to tell him that we no longer believe he can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia and that he must resign,” the three said in a statement released Saturday evening. “Governor Northam has served the people of the Commonwealth faithfully for many years, but the events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders. He should step down and allow the Commonwealth to begin healing.”
Update, Saturday, 4:01 p.m.: Predictably, Gov. Ralph Northam’s bizarro press conference in which he admitted to using blackface in one incident to prove he didn’t use it in another, isn’t going over well.
Northam said Saturday he isn’t stepping down, but the calls for him to do so—especially from within his own party—have only intensified since his denial.
“We are deeply disappointed in Governor @RalphNortham’s failure to take accountability today. Using shoe polish on his face in any form to mimic Michael Jackson showcases his lack of awareness of the discrimination against Black people. We stand by our call for his resignation,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson tweeted.
“@GovernorVA there is no difference between your dance contest blackface and the pics. Ain’t nothing playful about it,” Virginia House and Legislative Black Caucus member Jeff Bourne added.
Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus is standing firm in its demand for Northam to resign, saying in a new statement, “Changing his public story today now casts further doubt on his ability to regain that trust...We cannot continue this work with Governor Northam at the helm.”
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez called for Northam “to step aside”:
Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu pointed out that Northam probably wrote the caption under the yearbook photograph. “It references your interest in being a doctor, and beer, which is in the photo. You knew exactly what you were doing with that photo. You need to resign,” Lieu tweeted.
Here’s what Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said:
And Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax finally has weighed in, issuing a statement that admonished Northam for actions from the past that “suggest a comfort with Virginia’s darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping, and intimidation.” However, Fairfax did not call on Northam to step down.
Instead, he said, “At this critical and defining moment in the history of Virginia and this nation, we need leaders with the ability to unite and help us rise to the better angels of our nature.”
Meanwhile, The Virginian-Pilot reported that the same 1984 yearbook contains yet another photo of a man in blackface:
Original post continues here:
Ignoring practically everyone, Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced Saturday afternoon in a bizarre and astonishing press conference that he will not step down, despite an overwhelming backlash over a vile 1984 yearbook photo depicting two people in blackface and KKK garb.
Delivering a statement from the governor’s mansion in Richmond, where dozens of protesters had gathered outside to demand he step down, Northam blamed the photo’s appearance on his yearbook page on an apparent mix-up, saying he wasn’t aware it had been published.
“I was seeing it for the first time. I did not purchase the [Eastern Virginia Medical School] yearbook and I was unaware of what was on my page,” Northam said. “I believe then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo.”
He made these comments even though he said twice on Friday that he is, in fact, one of the people in the photo. This is also despite the photo appearing in his own yearbook profile when he was a 25-year-old student at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
In his statement Saturday, Northam said he now only admitted that he was shocked upon seeing the photo, but that it isn’t him.
Then, stunningly, he recalled another incident that same year in which he admitted that he did dress in blackface. According to Northam, he “darkened his face” at a dance contest while depicting star Michael Jackson. Northam said his memory of that incident is “so vivid” that it led him to believe he isn’t in the yearbook picture.
Later, responding to a question about that incident, he said he had only put a “little bit of shoe polish” on his face, and added, “the reason I used a very little bit is...you cannot get shoe polish off.”
Northam acknowledged that “actions and behaviors” in his past “were hurtful,” but that he had “made significant progress” on issues of racist discrimination.
On whether he should step down, the governor said, “I could not in good conscience choose the path that would be easier for me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile.”
Later, when questioned by reporters, Northam doubled down on his denial, saying adamantly that he is not in the photo in question, and that he has never worn a KKK costume.
He said he would continue to “pray” about the situation.
Before Saturday’s news conference, Northam had called several state Democrats to tell them he doubted he was the one in the photo. He also called former classmates at Eastern Virginia Medical School to gather more information about the photo, The New York Times first reported.
The Washington Post added later:
In the phone calls, the governor distanced himself from the yearbook, saying he didn’t purchase it. And he told lawmakers that he talked to medical school classmates who confirmed that some of the photos on various pages might have gotten mixed up.
“He should have said that yesterday then,” said State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), who was among the lawmakers who received a call from Northam Saturday morning. “He just told me he didn’t think it’s him. And I said, ‘Ralph, this is a day late and a dollar short. It’s too late.’”
Northam’s military academy yearbook also shows that he apparently went by the racist nickname “Coonman.”
As to his nickname, Northam said only a couple people had called him that.
The governor’s refusal to resign prompted criticism from within his own party as the nation honors Black History Month.
LaMont Bagby, a member of Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus, told CNN just before the governor delivered his statement: “It’s not about us. It’s about the individuals that we are called to serve and to help…I don’t think we’re going to be able to heal until the governor resigns.”
He added: “We’re all shaken up by this.”
The protesters who gathered on Saturday are expected to grow in numbers as the governor’s racism scandal continues.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a descendant of slaves and the first African American elected to statewide office in Virginia in a quarter-century, has not yet commented publicly on Northam’s decision as of this writing. Had Northam resigned, Fairfax would have become only the second African American governor of Virginia, and the fourth in U.S. history.
When Fairfax took his oath of office last year, he carried in his pocket a manumission document given to him by his father of their ancestor, Simon Fairfax, who was born into slavery and emancipated in 1798, according to The Washington Post.
Fairfax has frequently protested the honoring by state lawmakers of Confederate figures, including Gen. Robert E. Lee. In a tweet last month, Fairfax stated, “History repeats itself. I will be stepping off the dais today in protest of the Virginia Senate honoring Robert E. Lee. I’ll be thinking of this June 5, 1798 manumission document that freed my great-great-great grandfather Simon Fairfax from slavery in Virginia.”
Northam would have become the first Virginia governor since the Civil War not to serve out his term, USA Today reported. While that hasn’t happened yet, given the backlash the governor’s announcement has generated already, it can’t be ruled out in the future.
Here’s the photo that prompted the scandal:
This is a developing story and is being updated.