This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 16 °C Sunday 21 April, 2019
Advertisement

Virginia Governor now says he wasn't in KKK and blackface photo on his yearbook page

Ralph Northam on Friday apologised for the photo.

Source: CNN/YouTube

RESISTING WIDESPREAD CALLS for his resignation, Virginia’s embattled governor has pledged to remain in office after disavowing a blatantly racist photograph that appeared under his name in his 1984 medical school yearbook.

In a tumultuous 24 hours, Gov. Ralph Northam apologised for appearing in a photograph that featured what appeared to be a man in blackface and a second person cloaked in Ku Klux Klan garb. In a video posted on Twitter, he said he could not “undo the harm my behaviour caused then and today.”

But by yesterday, he reversed course and said the racist photo on his yearbook profile page did not feature him after all. The governor said he had not seen the photo before Friday, since he had not purchased the commemorative book or been involved in its preparation more than three decades ago.

“It has taken time for me to make sure that it’s not me, but I am convinced, I am convinced that I am not in that picture,” he told reporters gathered at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, calling the shot offensive and horrific.

While talking with reporters, Northam admitted that he had previously worn blackface around that time, saying he once had used shoe polish to darken his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume he fashioned for a 1984 dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, when he was in the US Army.

Northam said he regrets that he didn’t understand “the harmful legacy of an action like that.”

His refusal to step down could signal a potentially long and bruising fight between Northam and his former supporters, which includes virtually all of the state’s Democratic establishment.

Virginia governor's yearbook page shows men in blackface and KKK robe A photo from Gov. Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook. Source: PA Images

After he spoke, both of Virginia’s US senators said they called Northam to tell him that he must resign.

In a joint statement last night, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and the dean of Virginia’s congressional delegation, Rep. Bobby Scott, said the recent events “have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders.”

If Northam does resign, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would become the second African-American governor in the state’s history.

In a statement, Fairfax said the state needs leaders who can unite people, but he stopped short of calling for Northam’s departure. Referring to Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said he “cannot condone actions from his past” that at least “suggest a comfort with Virginia’s darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping and intimidation.”

Northam conceded that people might have difficulty believing his shifting statements.

He was pushed repeatedly by reporters to explain why he issued an apology Friday if he wasn’t in the photograph.

“My first intention … was to reach out and apologise,” he said, adding that he recognised that people would be offended by the photo. But after studying the picture and consulting with classmates, Northam said, “I am convinced that is not my picture.”

Walt Broadnax, one of two black students who graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School with Northam, said by phone he also didn’t buy the class’s 1984 yearbook or see it until decades after it was published.

Broadnax defended his former classmate and said he’s not a racist, adding that the school would not have tolerated someone going to a party in blackface.

The yearbook images were first published on Friday afternoon by the conservative news outlet Big League Politics.

Governor Klan Blackface Northam joined by his wife at a press conference yesterday. Source: Steve Helber/PA Images

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.

In a tweet late on Saturday, President Donald Trump called Northam’s actions related to the photo and abortion debate “unforgivable!”

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Associated Press

Read next:

COMMENTS (43)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel