Pressure Mounts for VA Gov. Ralph Northam to Resign (UPDATE: Northam Resisting)

Photo: Mark Wilson (Getty Images)

Update, Saturday, 11:45 a.m.: In a bizarre development, VA Gov. Ralph Northam reportedly has been calling state Democrats on Saturday to tell them he now doubts that he appeared in the racist yearbook photo in 1984 depicting two people—one in blackface and one in KKK garb.

This is after he apologized for the photo on Friday.

According to The New York Times, Northam said “he did not think it was him in the picture and that he would not resign.”

Advertisement

Northam also called former classmates at Eastern Virginia Medical School to gather more information about the photo, the newspaper said.

His office said a new statement would be forthcoming early Saturday afternoon.

It also has been reported that as an undergraduate, Northam’s nickname allegedly was the racist slur “Coonman.”

Advertisement

Original post continues here:

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s immediate strategy in response to the discovery of a horribly racist yearbook photo depicting him either in blackface or a KKK outfit was to cling to power and try to face the public and political backlash. That strategy seems to be falling apart just hours after it had begun.

Advertisement

Following the publishing of the photo from the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook in 1984 by the right-wing site Big League Politics on Friday, Northam, 59, issued an apologetic statement acknowledging that he is one of the two people in the photo. He didn’t say which.

Advertisement

“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,” the governor’s statement said.

However, that response predictably wasn’t well received, so Northam issued another apology directly on Friday night.

Advertisement

“I believe you deserve to hear directly from me,” he said in a video statement. “That photo, and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents, does not reflect that person I am today or the way I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor, and a public servant.”

He added, “I cannot change the decisions I made, nor can I undo the harm my behavior caused then and today. But I accept responsibility for my past actions.”

Advertisement

What that statement should have been followed with is: “I resign.” Yet Northam, who took office just over a year ago, didn’t go there, vowing instead to “regain” the public’s trust.

Advertisement

Observers on Saturday noted that Northam has a moral and political responsibility to step down. “It’s really embarrassing,” Mark Thompson, host of Sirius XM Radio’s Make It Plain, told MSNBC’s Joy Reid.

Rev. Jesse Jackson on Saturday called for Northam to step down. “The Virginia Governor has acknowledged his actions were wrong & racist & apologized. However, because of the depth of the offense, as a practical matter & under the avalanche of criticism, it will be virtually impossible for him to govern. Therefore it would be wise for him to resign,” Jackson tweeted.

Advertisement

Jackson’s statement was among a multitude of voices calling for the governor’s resignation, including the NAACP, Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus, the state’s House and Senate Democratic caucuses, ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Kirsten Gillibrand, and several other politicians.

Advertisement

The Washington Post reported that “even friends who hoped he could weather the crisis were bracing for his resignation — a first for a Virginia governor in modern times.”

The Post added:

Northam and his inner circle had been preparing to fight as news of the photograph broke Friday afternoon - he issued a written apology, then a video mea culpa. They planned a “reconciliation tour,” taking him across the commonwealth to say he was sorry in person, his ally said.

“Then everything changed between 6 and 9 p.m.,” the ally said, as national Democrats unleashed a torrent of calls for his resignation.

Advertisement

If Northam does resign, he would be replaced by 39-year-old Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a descendant of slaves and the first African American elected to statewide office in a quarter-century. As the Post notes, Fairfax would be the second African American governor of Virginia, and the fourth in U.S. history.

“Justin Fairfax is an Ivy League-educated lawyer descended from slaves, who as lieutenant governor of Virginia was known mostly for sitting out tributes to Confederate leaders in the historic Capitol in Richmond,” the newspaper reported.

Advertisement

Following a meeting with Northam on Friday, Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus said, “…it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as Governor. It is time for him to resign, so that Virginia can begin the process of healing.”

Share This Story

About the author