Va. governor says that’s not him in racist photo


Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va.

Resisting widespread calls for his resignation, Virginia’s embattled governor on Saturday vowed 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 on Friday apologized for appearing in a photograph that featured what appeared to be a man in blackface and a second person cloaked in Klu Klux Klan garb. In a video posted on Twitter, he said he could not “undo the harm my behavior caused then and today.”

But by Saturday, 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.

“I am not in that photograph,” 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 U.S. 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.

After he spoke, both of Virginia’s U.S. senators said they called Northam to tell him that he must resign. In a joint statement Saturday 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.

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

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