Governor Northam Vows to Remain in Office, Continues to Lose Key Support
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam appears to have almost no choice but to resign after losing support from virtually the entire state Democratic party and other key allies, who urged the governor to leave office because of a...
By ALAN SUDERMAN
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia's governor on Saturday vowed to remain in office despite widespread calls for his resignation after a racist photo surfaced on a school yearbook page. His refusal to step down could signal a potentially long and bruising fight with his former supporters.
Gov. Ralph Northam said at a news conference he had prematurely apologized for appearing in what he called a "horrific" picture of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. The photo appeared on Northam's profile page in his 1984 medical school yearbook.
The Democratic governor said he had never even seen the yearbook before Friday and that he was blindsided by what was on his page.
"That is not my picture. That is not my person in that picture," Northam told reporters at the Executive Mansion in Richmond.
While he acknowledged apologizing on Friday, Northam said he had no actual recollection of wearing such racist garb. He spoke to classmates from medical school who agreed. He said he was in the process of obtaining a yearbook so that he could try to determine how the photo even got on his profile page.
It remained unclear whether Northam's remarks would calm the wave of criticism sparked by the yearbook's contents.
Before he spoke, the Virginia Democratic Party issued a statement demanding Northam's immediate resignation. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the state House Democratic Caucus and the state Senate Democratic Caucus all called on Northam to resign late Friday, along with several key progressive groups that have been some of the governor's closest political allies.
The yearbook images were first published Friday afternoon by the conservative news outlet Big League Politics. The Virginian-Pilot later obtained a copy from Eastern Virginia Medical School, which Northam attended. The photo shows two people looking at the camera - one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in a full Ku Klux Klan robe.
An Associated Press reporter saw the yearbook page and confirmed its authenticity at the medical school.
In his first apology on Friday, Northam called the costume he wore "clearly racist and offensive," but he didn't say which one he had worn.
He later issued a video statement saying he was "deeply sorry" but still committed to serving the "remainder of my term."
"I accept responsibility for my past actions and I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust," Northam said.
Northam's departure would mean current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat who is only the second African-American to win statewide office in Virginia, would be the next governor. Northam's term was set to end in 2022.
The scars from centuries of racial oppression are still raw in a state that was once home to the capital of the Confederacy.
Virginians continue to struggle with the state's legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and Massive Resistance, the anti-school segregation push. Heated debates about the Confederate statues are ongoing after a deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. A state holiday honoring Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson is a perennially source of discontent.
Northam spent years actively courting the black community in the lead up to his 2017 gubernatorial run, building relationships that helped him win both the primary and the general election. He's a member of a predominantly black church on Virginia's Eastern Shore, where he grew up.
"It's a matter of relationships and trust. That's not something that you build overnight," Northam told the AP during a 2017 campaign stop while describing his relationship with the black community.
Northam, a folksy pediatric neurologist who is personal friends with many GOP lawmakers, has recently come under fire from Republicans who have accused him of backing infanticide after he said he supported a bill loosening restrictions on late-term abortions.
Last week, Florida's secretary of state resigned after photos from a 2005 Halloween party showed him in blackface while dressed as a Hurricane Katrina victim.
Associated Press writer Ben Finley contributed to this report.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Editor's Note: This story developed throughout the day, listed below are The Associated Press 'The Latest' updates, followed by statements released by politicians and organizations.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The Latest on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and racist photo in 1984 yearbook (all times local):
Both of Virginia's U.S. senators say they have called the state's governor, Ralph Northam, to tell him that he must resign after a racist photo was discovered on Northam's page in a 30-year-old medical school yearbook.
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are joined by the dean of Virginia's congressional delegation, Rep. Bobby Scott, in a statement Saturday night that says they have told Northam that they no longer believe he can effectively serve as governor.
“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.”
Northam says he is not in the photo, which shows someone in blackface and someone in Ku Klux Klan robes.
Democratic presidential hopefuls are getting their first major test on how they will address racial tensions that have polarized American life.
A racist photo tied to Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam from his days in medical school has prompted them to deal with the question.
Nearly every major declared and potential Democratic candidate called for Northam's resignation after the disclosure of the yearbook photo, which shows one person in blackface and another hooded in white Klan regalia.
Their reactions came before Northam said during a news conference Saturday that he was not in the photo on his page of the 1984 yearbook.
A prominent Democratic strategist, Symone Sanders, says candidates already face challenges explaining their own records on racially fraught matters and now must deal with the Northam issue.
Virginia's attorney general is calling for Gov. Ralph Northam to resign.
Mark Herring said in a statement Saturday that it's no longer possible for Northam to "lead our Commonwealth."
“It is no longer possible for Governor Northam to lead our Commonwealth and it is time for him to step down. I have spoken with Lieutenant Governor Fairfax and assured him that, should he ascend to the governorship, he will have my complete support and commitment to ensuring his success and the success of our Commonwealth."
Herring is the latest prominent Democrat to call for the Democratic governor to step down. Others calling for Northam's resignation include the Virginia Democratic Party, the state House Democratic Caucus and many Democratic candidates for president.
Herring's statement followed Northam's press conference at which he denied being in a medical school yearbook photo that shows a person in blackface standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan costume.
Northam, however, admitted to wearing blackface as Michael Jackson at a dance contest.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has admitted to wearing blackface while dressing up like Michael Jackson at a dance contest around the time he was in medical school.
Northam made the admission Saturday at a press conference where he denied being in a photo that shows a man in blackface standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan costume.
That image appeared alongside photos of Northam in his medical school yearbook in 1984 and has sparked a torrent of calls for his resignation.
The Democratic governor said he darkened his face with "a little bit" of shoe polish for his Michael Jackson costume at a 1984 San Antonio talent show.
Northam said he regrets that he didn't understand "the harmful legacy of an action like that."
A man who went to medical school with Ralph Northam says he also didn't buy the class's 1984 yearbook or see it until decades after it was published.
Walt Broadnax is one of two black students who graduated with Northam. He said by phone Saturday that students submitted photos for someone else to lay out.
Broadnax saw his yearbook page for the first time Saturday. He said it turned out how he intended with photos of family and a woman he was dating.
Broadnax defended Northam and said he's not a racist. He said he believes Northam's statement that he wasn't in the photo of a man in blackface standing next to someone in a KKK costume.
He said the school never would have tolerated someone going to a party in blackface.
Virginia's lieutenant governor says the state needs leaders who can unite people and "help us rise to the better angels of our nature."
If Gov. Ralph Northam were to resign, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would become the second African-American governor of Virginia.
In his statement issued Saturday, Fairfax doesn't call for Northam to resign because of racist photos on Northam's 1984 yearbook profile page.
But Fairfax does say that he "cannot condone actions from (the governor's) past" that at least "suggest a comfort with Virginia's darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping and intimidation."
Northam said Saturday that he hadn't seen photos of one person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan until someone showed them to him Friday. He says he won't resign despite widespread calls that he step aside and let Fairfax lead Virginia.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has vowed to remain in office despite widespread calls for his resignation after a racist photo surfaced in his yearbook page from more than 30 years ago.
Northam said at a news conference Saturday that he had prematurely apologized for appearing in a picture of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. The photo appeared in his 1984 medical school yearbook.
The Democratic governor said Saturday that he, in fact, was not in the photo and had never even seen the yearbook until Friday.
His refusal to resign signals a potential bruising fight between Northam and his former supporters. Leaders in both parties have repeatedly urged Northam to resign, saying he's lost the public's trust.
The president of Eastern Virginia Medical School says a racist photo that appears in the 1984 student yearbook is "shockingly abhorrent."
In a statement on the school's website , President Richard Homan said the photo of one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood is "absolutely antithetical" to the school's principles, morals and values. Read the full statement below.
The photo was on the profile page of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who says he believes he's not one of the men in the picture.
Homan also apologized for "past transgressions of your trust." He said he'll convene a meeting of leadership and others to address the issue.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called a photograph on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's yearbook profile page "racist and contrary to fundamental American values."
She said Saturday via Twitter that she is joining her colleagues in Virginia in calling for Northam "to do the right thing" so that the people in Virginia can heal and move on.
The photo is racist and contrary to fundamental American values. I join my colleagues in Virginia calling on Governor Northam to do the right thing so that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia can heal and move forward.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 2, 2019
The Virginia Democratic Party on Saturday called on Northam to resign after the photo from a 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced Friday. The photo shows a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood.
Northam was scheduled to speak to the public Saturday afternoon.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is planning a news conference where he's expected to say he's not resigning and believes he was not in a racist picture featured in his 1984 medical yearbook.
Northam's office on Saturday said the 2:30 p.m. news conference would take place at the Executive Mansion.
Northam is calling Democrats ahead of the news conference to try and shore up support. A wide swath of Democrats and Republicans have called on Northam to resign after he apologized Friday for appearing in a photo in which one person is dressed in blackface and another is wearing a full Ku Klux Klan uniform.
But Northam said he now believes he was not in the picture and can prove that it wasn't him, said state Sen. Louise Lucas.
A Virginia Democrat who has spoken with Gov. Ralph Northam has told The Associated Press that the governor now does not believe he was in a racist picture in his 1984 medical yearbook and has no immediate plans to resign.
The Democrat was not authorized to speak on the record to detail a private conversation.
Northam is calling state lawmakers Saturday to try and gain support so he can remain in office, the Democrat said.
Northam has faced a torrent of criticism and calls for his resignation after a photo surfaced from decades ago that showed two people in racist costumes: One person is dressed in blackface, and another is wearing a full Ku Klux Klan uniform.The photo appeared in Northam's 1984 medical school yearbook. On Friday, Northam apologized for appearing in the photo.
Lawmakers in the Virginia General Assembly are calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after he acknowledged appearing in a photo wearing a racist costume.
House Speaker Kirk Cox and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment said Saturday the governor had lost the public's confidence, and it is in the state's best interests for him to step down.
The Republicans join a growing chorus of elected officials in Virginia and elsewhere calling for Northam's resignation.
JUST IN: Former VP and potential 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden: "There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now."— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 2, 2019
Gov. Northam should resign. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax should step in and begin a new day for Virginia.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 2, 2019
There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 2, 2019
Northam apologized Friday for appearing in a photo in which one person is dressed in blackface and another is wearing a full Ku Klux Klan uniform, but has not said he will resign. The photo appeared in his 1984 medical school yearbook.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam appears to have almost no choice but to resign after losing support from virtually the entire state Democratic party and other key allies, who urged the governor to leave office because of a racist photo in which he appeared more than 30 years ago.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the state House Democratic Caucus and the state Senate Democratic Caucus all called on Northam to resign late Friday, along with several key progressive groups that have been some of the governor's closest political allies.
Their calls for Northam to step down came in a wave late Friday, after the Democrat had apologized for appearing in a photo in which one person is dressed in blackface and another is wearing a full Ku Klux Klan uniform. The photo appeared in his 1984 medical school yearbook.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Democratic Party of Virginia Release:
RICHMOND, VA. – Democratic Party of Virginia Chair Susan Swecker issued the following statement calling on the immediate resignation of Governor Northam.
"We made the decision to let Governor Northam do the correct thing and resign this morning - we have gotten word he will not do so this morning.
We stand with Democrats across Virginia and the country calling him to immediately resign. He no longer has our confidence or our support. Governor Northam must end this chapter immediately, step down, and let Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax heal Virginia's wounds and move us forward. We can think of no better person than Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to do so."
57th District Delegate Toscano Calls on Northam to Resign:
"The yearbook photograph of Governor Ralph Northam that went viral yesterday is outrageously offensive and deeply troubling. Excuses that this might simply have been a youthful indiscretion or happened in an era when race relations in the South were different fail to recognize that this was apparently published in 1984, not 1954, and that the Governor was in his mid-twenties and in medical school at the time.
In an era of instantaneous news and reaction, it usually makes sense to carefully consider the best course of action, and to gather facts and perspectives to ensure that haste does not overtake good judgment. Like my fellow Democrats in the General Assembly, I knew we needed to make space for the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus to meet with the Governor and determine their course of action. It is now clear that while the Governor has done many good things in his career, and has been fighting for those most in need throughout his public life, he has lost the moral high ground at the core of his leadership. It makes it almost impossible for him to govern. I say this with the heaviest of hearts, but his ability to make further progress on his promises to Virginians has been so severely compromised that the best course for the Commonwealth is for him to resign.
Speaker Cox and House Republican Leaders call for Governor Northam’s resignation
Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox, Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo, and Majority Whip Nick Rush released the following statement Saturday:
“When the racist picture first emerged Friday, we were shocked and repulsed. The photo is disturbing and offensive, as unacceptable in 1984 as it is today.
“We withheld judgement last night while awaiting an explanation from the Governor believing the gravity of the situation deserved prudence and deliberation.
“We agree with the powerful words of our colleagues in the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and believe that because of this photo the Governor has lost the confidence of the citizens he serves.
“While we respect the Governor’s lifetime of service, his ability to lead and govern is permanently impaired and the interests of the Commonwealth necessitate his resignation.”
Delegate Landes Calls on Governor Northam to Resign
WEYERS CAVE, VA – Del. R. Steven Landes, R-Weyers Cave, issued the following statement today calling for Governor Ralph Northam’s resignation.
“Today is a sad day for Virginia. Despite his many years of public service, Governor Ralph Northam can no longer effectively lead and govern. Given the fact of Virginia's past history of racial intolerance, and the efforts we have made to bring our citizens together over the years, it is necessary for Governor Northam to resign in the best interest of all Virginians. His resignation will allow us to move forward together and is certainly the best course for the Commonwealth.”
Landes represents the 25th House District, which includes parts of Albemarle, Augusta, and Rockingham Counties. Landes is currently serving his twelfth term in the Virginia House of Delegates. Visit SteveLandes.com for additional information.
President of Eastern Virginia Medical School, Richard V. Homan, MD, released the following statement Saturday:
"We share the outrage, alarm and sadness voiced by our alumni, the press and many on social media regarding the picture published in the 1984 student yearbook. The picture is shockingly abhorrent and absolutely antithetical to the principles, morals and values we hold and espouse of our educational and research institution and our professions. Racism and discrimination in any form is not acceptable.
We cannot change the events of the past, but we can use these events as reminders of the importance of our ongoing work toward diversity and inclusion. This is a time for self-reflection and humility. On behalf of our beloved EVMS, I sincerely apologize for the past transgressions of your trust. We recognize the need to address and rectify any issues of racism and discrimination that arise, at any point — and will continue a long tradition of action to build a strong culture of diversity and inclusion.
Therefore, I shall convene an urgent meeting of members of our senior leadership and members of our Boards to address this issue holistically for EVMS. We will, of course, include students, residents, faculty, staff, and alumni in this work.
It has been said that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. We must learn from this and will come together to support and live the values and principles we hold so dear. We remain steadfast in reassuring our community that EVMS is absolutely committed to supporting and creating a culture of diversity, inclusion and social equality. We continue to affirm the tenets of our professions and our mission to recruit, educate and train a culturally competent healthcare workforce that reflects the demography of our nation and the patients we serve.
Thank you for your tireless work to make EVMS and the communities we serve a better and healthier place. In my seven years at EVMS, I have witnessed the efforts of our outstanding faculty, students and staff to advance our missions. We have much more work to do and must now vow to do more to forge a better future together. I am confident that together, we shall."
ACLU-VA Statement Regarding Gov. Ralph Northam's Racist Yearbook Photo
The ACLU of Virginia has released the following statement regarding Gov. Ralph Northam's racist yearbook photo:
"The Commonwealth of Virginia continues to experience and suffer damage from its past as a state in which Jim Crow ruled, schools and colleges were segregated by law, and elected officials took purposeful action to deny black people the right to vote and participate as equals in our schools, civic life and the workplace.
"The structural racism of our past has not been purged from our systems or our own lived experiences. White supremacy and white fragility remain common realities in our daily lives, too often accompanied by overt and implicit violence. The contemporary refusal of our legislative leaders to support expunging the Jim Crow felon disenfranchisement provision from our constitution and grant universal suffrage to all Virginians, to purge the Jim Crow provisions from our minimum wage laws to ensure equal pay for all or to confront the reality that Virginia is one of 12 states where a majority of the people in our prisons are black reveal how much work remains before the infrastructure of inequality that exists in Virginia can be broken apart and deconstructed.
"To accomplish this work, Virginia must have a leader of unquestioned moral authority to lead us in dismantling systems and structures that support the continued oppression of people of color.
"The ACLU of Virginia believes that Ralph Northam’s admitted past actions, combined with his failure to surface and address them before others called him out, disqualify him from being that leader."
DNC Chair Tom Perez released the following statement on Governor Ralph Northam:
“I spoke with Governor Northam this morning. His past actions are completely antithetical to everything the Democratic Party stands for. Virginians and people across the country deserve better from their leaders, and it is clear that Ralph Northam has lost their trust and his ability to govern. The Democratic Party believes that diversity is our greatest strength and that hatred and racism have no place in our democracy. And we will never hesitate to hold accountable people who violate those values, regardless of their party affiliation. It's time for Ralph Northam to step aside and let Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax serve Virginians as their next Governor. Justin is a dedicated public servant who is committed to building a brighter future for the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) issued the following statement calling for the resignation of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam
“I am disappointed and saddened by the recently discovered photos involving Governor Northam,” Cline said. “The racist behavior depicted in the photos has no place in Virginia, and I strongly condemn it. I hope the Governor will make the best decision for the future of our Commonwealth and step down immediately.”
Virginia Organizing Chairperson Del McWhorter statement:
"We believe in the ability of people to grow and change. We have seen it countless times in our Dismantling Racism Workshops and in the relationships we have built across the state. After considering Gov. Northam's actions and apologies, we believe the reflection and internal work to make that change possible is best done as a private citizen and not in the state's highest office. Gov. Northam should resign.
"While we have counted Gov. Northam as an ally and champion on many of the pressing issues facing Virginia, Gov. Northam owes us more than inadequate apologies. He owes us action. Gov. Northam should take a step back from trying to save his political career, spend time learning from the people of color his actions have hurt, and make clear how he will grow and change from this experience.
"Virginia has a long history of systemic racism—history that reveals itself still today in our systems, institutions, and laws. As a statewide non-partisan grassroots organization, we will continue the important work of deep organizing for racial justice—bringing people together to build a more just Virginia."
President of the University of Virginia, Jim Ryan, statement:
"I write to address, briefly, the story that has been developing over the last two days around Governor Northam.
This has been a sad and bewildering time for the Commonwealth. The photo circulated the other day was shocking and racist, no matter who was in it. This community knows all too well the pain and hurt that can come from reopening wounds, many of which remain to be fully healed. It is clear that this photo has deepened those wounds for many people in our community, the Commonwealth, and beyond, and it is equally clear that the photo is antithetical to the values of our community.
Over the past year, I have come to know Governor Northam as a decent and kind man, with an admirable record of service to our Commonwealth and the nation. But I also believe that any leader—at any level—depends on the trust and support of the people he or she represents. If that trust is lost, for whatever reason, it is exceedingly difficult to continue to lead. It seems we have reached that point.
Regardless of what happens and when, it is my hope that this painful episode will underscore the need to continue the conversations begun here and elsewhere in the Commonwealth about our past and the ways in which it continues to influence our present. I hope as well that it will underscore the importance of continuing to do all that we can to ensure that our community is one based on equal dignity and mutual respect."