Virginia Governor in hot water over racist photo

Democratic Virginia Governor denies prior knowledge of racist picture in medical school yearbook, a day after apologizing for it.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Ralph Northam
Ralph Northam

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam denied on Saturday he had any prior knowledge of a racist picture that appeared on his medical school yearbook page and rejected bipartisan calls for his resignation.

On Friday, however, the Democratic governor apologized for the picture and appeared to acknowledge that he was in it.

“I am not and will not excuse the content of the photo. It was offensive, racist and despicable. When my staff showed me the photo in question yesterday, I was seeing it for the first time. I did not purchase the [Eastern Virginia Medical School] yearbook and I was unaware of what was on my page,” Northam said on Saturday at a press conference, according to The Hill.

“When I was confronted with the images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page, but I believed then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo,” he continued.

The scandal erupted after The Virginian-Pilot released a photo from the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook showing a man wearing blackface and another dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

Shortly after the photo was released on Friday, Northam released a statement in which he said, “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.”

“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,” he added.

The photo’s release sparked a cavalcade of bipartisan calls for Northam’s resignation, including from the Virginia Democratic Party, the vice chair of the Democratic Governors Association, several prominent members of Congress and multiple 2020 presidential candidates.

During Saturday’s 40-minute press conference, Northam calmly rejected the pleas for him to leave office, suggesting doing so would be the easy way out.

“If I were to listen to the voices calling on me to resign my office today, I could spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead. I can avoid an honest conversation about harmful actions from my past. I cannot in good conscious choose the path that would be easier for me in an attempt to duck my responsibility to reconcile,” he said, according to The Hill.

“I took an oath to uphold this office and serve the people of this commonwealth to the best of my ability. As long as I believe I can effectively fill that task, I intend to continue doing the business of Virginia,” he added.

The Virginia governor attempted to explain the discrepancy between Saturday’s denial that he appeared in the picture and Friday’s apology seeming to admit he was one of the two men, saying he came to the new conclusion after reflection with family and former classmates.

“I recognize that many people will find this difficult to believe. The photo appears with others I submitted in a page with my name on it. Even in my own statement yesterday I conceded that based on the evidence presented to me at the time, the most likely explanation that it was indeed me in the photo,” he said.

“In the hours since I made my statement yesterday, I reflected with my family and classmates and affirmed my conclusion that I am not the person in that photo.”

Meanwhile on Saturday, President Donald Trump weighed in on the saga and called Northam’s actions “unforgivable”.

“Democrat Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia just stated, ‘I believe that I am not either of the people in that photo.’ This was 24 hours after apologizing for appearing in the picture and after making the most horrible statement on ‘super’ late term abortion. Unforgivable!” tweeted Trump.

“Ed Gillespie, who ran for Governor of the Great State of Virginia against Ralph Northam, must now be thinking Malpractice and Dereliction of Duty with regard to his Opposition Research Staff. If they find that terrible picture before the election, he wins by 20 points!” the President asserted in a second tweet.