State GOP, Democratic leaders call on Northam to resign after 1984 photo surfaces
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
RICHMOND (CFP) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam says he’s “deeply sorry” for posing in a racist costume while a medical student in 1984, after a photo surfaced Friday on a conservative website, prompting calls from both left and right for his resignation.
“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 Democratic governor said in a statement issued by his office after the photo was published.
“This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.”
Northam did not directly address his future in office, but he did say that “I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work.”
But the Republican Party of Virginia called on the governor to resign, as did the liberal activist group Move On.org, the NAACP and at least two 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio.
“Racism has no place in Virginia,” said Jack Wilson, state GOP chairman, in a statement. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”
“Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government,” Harris said in tweet. “The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.”
If Northam resigns, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who is African American, would take over as the commonwealth’s chief executive.
The photo was published in a yearbook for students at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, from which Northam graduated in 1984.
The yearbook page is headlined with Northam’s name and contains two pictures of Northam, along with a third photo in which one man is wearing blackface and another is dressed in Ku Klux Klan regalia.
Northam’s statement acknowledges that one of the two men in the photo is him, although it did not say which one.
The page also contains a personal quote from Northam: “There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.”
The photo first surfaced on a conservative website, Big League Politics, which did not indicate the source of the material.
Northam had come in for blistering criticism from conservatives over the past week for his comments in support of a bill in the Virginia legislature that would have made it easier for a woman to obtain a late-term abortion.
Describing a late-term abortion procedure, Northam said, “so in this particular example if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Republicans pounced, saying Northam was endorsing infanticide, a charge the governor denied.
Northam, 59, grew up on a farm on Virginia’s southeastern shore. After graduating from medical school, Northam served as a physician in the Army before entering private practice as a pediatric neurologist.
He was elected as governor in 2017, after serving a term as lieutenant governor and six years in the Virginia Senate. In his four election campaigns for state office, the yearbook photo never surfaced.
Fairfax, 39, was elected lieutenant governor in 2017, after making an unsuccessful run for attorney general in 2013.