Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is facing calls to resign after a yearbook photograph surfaced of him dressed in racist attire.
The photograph, which The New York Times reports is from Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook, shows a man wearing blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan garb. Northam initially admitted he was in the photograph, although he has not specified which of the two costumes he was wearing. On Saturday, Democratic State Sen. L. Louise Lucas told the Washington Post that Northam said he didn’t believe it was him in the photos after all. Northam now faces calls from both sides of the aisle to resign, but he has vowed to finish serving the remainder of his term.
“That photo, and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents, does not reflect the person I am today, or the way I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor, and a public servant. I am deeply sorry,” Northam said in a video statement.
After the photograph came to light on Friday, CBS News uncovered a page from Northam’s 1981 yearbook from the Virginia Military Institute. One of the nicknames under listed under Northam’s photograph was “Coonman,” a racial slur.
The 1984 photograph was first shared by the far-right media website Big League Politics. #NorthamResign began trending on social media within the next day, and various prominent elected officials called for the governor’s resignation.
“Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together,” California Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris wrote on Twitter.
Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 2, 2019
So far, Northam has rebuffed the calls for his resignation from his party. “I am committed to continuing that fight through the remainder of my term, and living up to the expectations you set for me when you elected me to serve,” he said in his statement.
Along with Harris, several Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro have rebuked Northrup’s actions and called for him to step down. President Donald Trump has yet to issue any comment on the incident.
“There aren’t two sets of rules for our friends and our foes: Right is right and wrong is wrong. Americans deserve to be respected by their leaders, and racism cannot be excused in our government or anywhere else,” Gillibrand tweeted. “Having seen the photo, I believe Governor Northam should resign.”
There aren’t two sets of rules for our friends and our foes: Right is right and wrong is wrong. Americans deserve to be respected by their leaders, and racism cannot be excused in our government or anywhere else. Having seen the photo, I believe Governor Northam should resign.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) February 2, 2019
These images arouse centuries of anger, anguish, and racist violence and they’ve eroded all confidence in Gov. Northam’s ability to lead. We should expect more from our elected officials. He should resign.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) February 2, 2019
It doesn’t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat. This behavior was racist and unconscionable. Governor Northam should resign.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) February 2, 2019
The Virginia GOP Caucus swiftly issued a call for Northam’s resignation, tweeting that he has “lost the moral authority to continue to govern.” Northam’s immediate predecessor, former governor Terry McAuliffe, also called on Northam to resign as well as his own party, the Virginia Democrats.
Full statement demanding that Governor Northam resign immediately. pic.twitter.com/XEf0H6HvOf
— Virginia Democrats (@vademocrats) February 2, 2019
Prior to his time in public office, Northam practiced neurology and served as an Army doctor. He was elected to the Virginia State Senate in 2007 and has served as governor of Virginia since 2018. From 2014 to 2018, Northam served a term as Virginia’s lieutenant governor under McAuliffe.
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