Senior Democratic and Republican figures continue to call for Ralph Northam to resign as governor of Virginia, over a racist photo which was released on Friday. Virginia governor denies he is in racist yearbook picture – and will not quit Read more The picture is from Northam’s page in a 1984 yearbook from Eastern Virginia…
Senior Democratic and Republican figures continue to call for Ralph Northamto resign as governor of Virginia, over a racist photo which was released on Friday.
The picture is from Northam’s page in a 1984 yearbook from EasternVirginiaMedical School. It shows two men, one in blackface, one dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and it was released by Big League Politics, a website founded by former employees of the far-right Breitbart News.
On Friday, Northam said he was in the picture although he did not know which man was him. On Saturday, at a press conference in Richmond, he reversed course and said he was not in the picture and had never seen the yearbook before its release this week.
He did however voluntarily discuss an instance in the same time period in which, he said, he wore shoe polish on his face while winning a dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, dressed as Michael Jackson.
Northam also said he would not quit, and said: “I’m asking for the opportunity to earn your forgiveness.”
After that, both of Virginia’s Democratic US senators weighed in. And so did Donald Trump.
In a tweet, Trump said Northam’s statement that he was not in the picture came “24 hours after apologizing for appearing in the picture and after making the most horrible statement on ‘super’ late-term abortion. Unforgivable!”
Republicans have sought to tie the yearbook controversy to Northam’ssupportfor a state bill that would loosen restrictions on third-trimester abortions. The governor is a pediatric neurosurgeon.
Characteristically, the president also took a shot at the Republican who lost to Northam in November, Ed Gillespie, saying he “must now be thinking Malpractice and Dereliction of Duty with regard to his Opposition Research Staff. If they find that terrible picture before the election, he wins by 20 points!”
For Northam, the intervention of the influential senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, who at first refrained from calling for his resignation while 2020 presidential contenders andVirginialegislators demanded it, was potentially more chilling.
A statement issued with the US representative Bobby Scott said: “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.
“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.”
As of Sunday morning, Northam had not followed their advice. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has called for the governor to be removed if he does not resign, but Terry McAuliffe, the Virginia governor to whom Northam was lieutenant, told CNN’s State of the Union he thought Northam would go voluntarily.
“Ralph is a good, decent, moral man and may have made a mistake,” McAuliffe said. “Ralph will put Virginia first and I think he will do so soon.”
McAuliffe defended Northam over a bizarre moment in Saturday’s press conference in which he seemed to contemplate demonstrating his version of the “Moonwalk”, Michael Jackson’s signature dance. McAuliffe said the question that prompted it was as inappropriate in such circumstances as Northam’s response.
It has alsoemergedthat a yearbook from Virginia Military Institute listed “Coonman” as a nickname for Northam. Asked if he thought Northam was racist, McAuliffe said he could not answer the question.
Northam’s lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, is only the second African American elected to statewide office in Virginia. Though he spent Friday night preparing to step up as governor, he did not call for Northam to go.
In astatementon Saturday, Fairfax said he was “shocked and saddened” by the picture but was glad Northam, whom he called a friend, had apologised and reached out to him personally for “actions from his past” that he could not condone.
Fairfax alsotold the Washington Post: “I’ve known Ralph for years … 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.”
Describing the last 24 hours as “eventful”, Fairfax said Northam’s confession about his Michael Jackson costume “obviously was disturbing as well. I think blackface is always wrong. Whatever context it takes place in, it’s never OK.”