Top Democrats Are Calling On Virginia's Governor To Resign Over His Racist Yearbook Photo
The calls to resign came rom several Democrats — including presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris and former Obama-era housing secretary Julián Castro — and major institutions — including Planned Parenthood and the NAACP.
A photo from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook page shows two men, one in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, multiple media outlets reported Friday.
The half-page, a copy of which was obtained by BuzzFeed News, comes from the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. Northam, a Democrat, graduated from the school that year.
In a statement Friday night, Northam apologized and confirmed that he is in the photo, but did not say specifically who he is in the picture. Several Democrats — including presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris and former Obama-era housing secretary Julián Castro — and major institutions — including Planned Parenthood and the NAACP — quickly called for him to resign. Terry McAuliffe, who was Virginia's governor when Northam was lieutenant governor, joined those calls late Friday.
Northam so far has not indicated that he plans to resign, saying in a video Friday that he is "ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust" through the rest of his term.
The yearbook page includes a headshot of Northam in a jacket and tie, a photo of him in a cowboy hat, and another photo of him sitting on the ground, leaning against a convertible.
On the right side of the page, the two men, one in blackface and the other in the KKK outfit, pose with drinks in their hands. Beneath, Northam's alma mater is listed along with his interest, "Pediatrics," and a quote: "There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer."
In his statement Friday, Northam acknowledged that he was one of the two men. "Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive," he said in the statement. "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 yearbook picture was first reported Friday by the conservative website Big League Politics.
In a statement, the Republican Party of Virginia condemned the picture and called on Northam to step down if he was one of the two people in it.
“Racism has no place in Virginia. These pictures are wholly inappropriate," said state party chair Jack Wilson. "If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”
The governor was accused this week by Republicans of supporting infanticide over comments he had made about late-term abortions.
Northam, a pediatric neurologist, said in a radio interview that late-term abortions are "done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s not viable. So in this particular example, if a mother’s 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."
Vincent Rhodes, a spokesperson for the medical school, declined to comment on the newly surfaced picture, saying the yearbook is a student production and that the school did not know where or when the picture was taken.
"Eastern Virginia Medical School is firmly committed to creating an inclusive environment and championing the health of all people," Rhodes told BuzzFeed News. "One of our principle missions is to recruit educate and train a cultural competent healthcare work force which reflects the demographics of the nation and the patients we serve."
Northam was elected governor in 2017 with the backing of McAuliffe and Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. He previously served as lieutenant governor and a state senator.
His win was seen as a rebuke to President Donald Trump and a testament to the grassroots energy and activism unleashed by the 2016 presidential election.