Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in a Saturday press conference denied appearing in a racist 1984 photograph that he on Friday apologized for, but he admitted that he did wear blackface for a Michael Jackson costume the same year.
The 59-year-old from Nassawadox admitted dressing up as the late singer, wearing similar footwear, a glove and shoe polish to look like an African-American person.
During the excruciating appearance in the Executive Mansion on Capitol Hill in Richmond, he said he later learned from a friend Seth that doing so for a dance competition was indeed inappropriate and he apologized to his friend at the time.
He was 25 when he deemed it okay to cover his face in shiny black wax at least two decades after the Civil Rights movement decried it.
Northam appeared to try to soften the offensive occasion by revealing he won the contest he did it for.
Ralph Northam in a Saturday press conference denied being in a racist photograph in his 1984 school yearbook. But he admitted he wore blackface two decades after the Civil Rights movement in the 80s
Northam made a redundant point by telling the audience in an awkward moment that he has black friends. His wife remained quietly by his side throughout as he spoke about winning a contest by Moonwalking and smearing shoo polish on his face to emulate Michael Jackson
Making his revelation worse, he told attendees the reason why he only wore a ‘little bit’ of shoe polish was because it’s difficult to remove.
‘I don’t know if anybody’s tried this…’ he said to the shocked room. But it didn’t explain why he was wearing blackface to show off his dance talent during the skit.
Northam told the audience during question time: ‘I have discussed this with a person of color. I apologized to him.’
Despite his revelation about donning blackface to do the Moonwalk, Northam said he felt sick after seeing the image of people wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and blackface and would remember if he had done so.
He made the contradictory statement to a room full of people eager to know why he admitted to something he claims now not to have done, but Northam didn’t manage to provide a clear explanation.
‘When my staff showed me the photo in question I had seen it for the first time,’ he claimed. ‘I didn’t purchase the yearbook and didn’t know they appeared on my page. On a yearbook page that belongs to me. It is disgusting.’
Northam added that his former classmates backed up his belief he was not in the photo but said he didn’t ever see the offending photo that emerged Friday because he didn’t buy his own yearbook. He claimed he didn’t ever see it after it was published either.
He jumped ahead of people being skeptical by adding: ‘Many people will find this difficult to believe me.’
Ralph Northam (L) speaks to the media next to his wife, First Lady of Virginia, Pamela Northam (R)
He said he admitted to being in the photo because didn’t buy his school yearbook and hadn’t seen it but realized on reflection he wasn’t in the picture
The yearbook page from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook is seen above. He claimed he had not bought or seen his yearbook in the last 34 years
A photo on Northam’s yearbook page depicts a man in blackface and another in a KKK robe. Northam said he felt sick when he saw the image recently, despite covering his face in shoe polish to emulate Michael Jackson
Throughout that rambling appearance where he addressed his admitted blackface incident. Northam called the image ‘horrific’ and ‘horrifying’. He said the image shocked him.
Northam attempted to convince the audience he was not racist by awkwardly telling the crowd he had black friends.
It seemed he hoped to get ahead of another possible embarrassment by admitting to the racist dance competition incident.
But he also confessed in the news conference to having the nickname ‘C**nman’, but he said he had no idea why the name was attached to him from a group of people.
Northam drilled in that he knew the difference between what was right and wrong by saying the image with the KKK outfit was ‘clearly racist and offensive’.
‘I have not and will not excuse the content,’ he told the room. But he added: ‘I did not wear that costume or attend that party.’
As the governor rambled on his press secretary came in an abruptly shut the appearance down, chiming in ‘Thank you everybody’ to signify the end.
An insider earlier said Northam was willing to use facial recognition technology to prove he doesn’t appear in the offending picture.
Following the conference, the Democratic Party of Virginia stood by their call for him to immediately resign.
The Democratic party tweeted Saturday morning: ‘We made the decision to let Governor Northam do the correct thing and resign this morning – we have gotten word he will not do so this morning.
‘We stand with Democrats across Virginia and the country calling him to immediately resign. He no longer has our confidence or our support. Governor Northam must end this chapter immediately, step down, and let Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax heal Virginia’s wounds and move us forward.
‘We can think of no better person than Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to do so.’
Northam appeared in a video statement on Friday night vowing to serve out his term despite calls to resign
After the appearance DNC Chair Tom Perez called for Gov. Northam to resign: ‘Virginians and people across the country deserve better from their leaders, and it is clear that Ralph Northam has lost their trust and his ability to govern.’
Former Vice President Joe Biden agreed in an earlier tweet: ‘There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now.’
Bernie Sanders said on the micro-blogging website: ‘Gov. Northam should resign. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax should step in and begin a new day for Virginia.’
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, joined in with a similar sentiment.
Fairfax is the second black person to be elected to statewide office in Virginia.
After a Democrat familiar with the situation previously spoke to the Associated Press off-the-record, Lucas added in a tweet about Northam’s change of mind after the apology: ‘He should have said that yesterday then. He just told me he didn’t think it’s him. And I said, “Ralph, this is a day late and a dollar short. It’s too late”.’
Northam was allegedly calling state lawmakers Saturday to try and gain support so he can remain in office despite top politicians calling on him to resign.
Representative Robert C. Scott of Virginia, an African-American Democrat who is a senior member of the congressional delegation, told the New York Times he wanted to see if there are any new facts in his statement.
Scott told the publication Northam had spoke to Virginia Democrats Tim Kaine and Mark Warner Saturday.
But on Saturday, protesters appeared outside the Governors Mansion on Capitol Hill, Virginia.
Protesters held signs that read ‘Virginia Forward’, ‘Blackface No Place’ and ‘You must resign. State the facts. No racist governor. We wants Fairfax’.
Others included statements such as ‘You must apologize to black people first’, ‘Get wrecked Ralph’, ‘Lesson #1: Blackface is racist’ and simply put ‘#NorthamResign’.
Northam is seen left in a 1981 VMI yearbook photo that lists his nickname as ‘C**nman’, and right in a 1984 yearbook photo from Eastern Virginia Medical School
The Democratic party tweeted in a statement Saturday morning that Northam should go
They wrote: ‘We made the decision to let Governor Northam do the correct thing and resign’
They suggested Governor Justin Fairfax ‘heal Virginia’s wounds and move us forward’
The party added that they could ‘think of no better person to do so’ than Just Fairfax
Portsmouth Democrat Lucas said she learned during a private conversation that Northam had no plan to resign and did not support the decision
Former Vice President Joe Biden agreed in a tweet: ‘There is no place for racism in America’
Bernie Sanders said on the micro-blogging website: ‘Justin Fairfax should step in’
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for his resignation in a tweet on Saturday
House Speaker Kirk Cox and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment said Saturday the governor had lost the public’s confidence, and it is in the state’s best interests for him to step down.
The Republicans join a growing chorus of elected officials in Virginia and elsewhere.
He lost support from virtually the entire state Democratic party and other key allies, who urged the governor to leave office.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the state House Democratic Caucus and the state Senate Democratic Caucus all called on Northam to resign late Friday, along with several key progressive groups that have been some of the governor’s closest political allies.
Their calls for Northam to step down came in a wave late Friday, after the Democrat confirmed in an apology on Friday that he had appeared in the photo in the 1984 yearbook from Eastern Virginia Medical School, but vowed to serve his full term in office.
He apologized for appearing in a ‘racist and offensive’ costume, but did not specify which of the two men in the photo was him.
State Senator Louise Lucas (left) said ‘Ralph, this is a day late and a dollar short. It’s too late’. She wanted Governor Justin Fairfax (right) to assume Northam’s role, as did many
Demonstrators appeared outside the Governors Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Virginia
They held signs and chanted on Saturday, the day after her apologized for the photograph
Protesters held signs that read ‘Virginia Forward’, ‘Blackface No Place’ and ‘You must resign. State the facts. No racist governor. We wants Fairfax’
‘#NorthamResign’: The demonstrators were calling for the resignation of Northam after the 30-year-old photo resurfaced
The photo from his medical school yearbook resurfaced which appears on a page labeled ‘Ralph Shearer Northam’ alongside other pictures of Northam, including a headshot, a photo of him kneeling in a cowboy hat, and another of him sitting next to a Corvette.
The photo in question depicts two men. One is wearing back coloring on his hands and face, along with plaid pants and a bowtie, a white Panama hat, and sungasses.
The other individual is wearing a makeshift white hood and robe in the style of the Ku Klux Klan. Both men are holding beers.
Under the photo, text states that Northam’s alma mater is the Virginia Military Institute and that his interest is pediatrics.
His quote is given as: ‘There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.’
The photo was first circulated on Friday afternoon by the conservative news site Big League Politics, which viewed it in the school’s library. Other outlets were able to independently view and confirm the photo.
In another startling revelation, another photo emerged on Friday showing Northam in his 1981 undergraduate yearbook at the Virginia Military Institute.
The entry lists one of Northam’s nicknames as ‘Coonman’. The nickname seemingly refers to the racial epithet, but its meaning is unclear.
Governor Northam’s full statement on offensive yearbook photo
‘Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.
‘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.
‘I recognize that it will thake time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.’
Northam is considered a rising star in the Democrat party, but the revelation of the disturbing 1984 photo threatened to derail aspirations he may have had for higher office.
On Friday, the calls for Northam’s resignation came from all quarters. Republican state Senator Bryce Reeves said in a statement that Northam should resign if the reports of the photos are accurate.
‘I hope that this picture is inaccurate and that the Governor brings clarity to this issue. This has no place in Virginia,’ Reeves said.
The NAACP, along with national president Derrick Johnson, also called for Northam’s resignation.
‘Black face in any manner is always racist and never okay. No matter the party affiliation, we can not stand for such behavior,’ Johnson wrote in a tweet.
Kamala Harris, a Democrat senator from California and contender for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, echoed the call.
‘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,’ Harris wrote on Twitter.
Senator Cory Booker, who announced his presidential aspirations on Friday, was quick to chime in: ‘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.’
Another contender for the Democratic nomination, Julian Castro, joined the call, calling the image of Northam ‘racist and unconscionable’.
Northam’s mentor and key ally, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, called for him to resign as well.
‘The situation that he has put himself and the Commonwealth of Virginia in is untenable. It’s time for Ralph to step down, and for the Commonwealth to move forward,’ McAuliffe said, calling the photo ‘racist, unacceptable and inexcusable at any age and any time.’
If Northam were to resign, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, who is African-American, would assume the governor’s office.
In a statement, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said that ‘what has been revealed is disgusting, reprehensible, and offensive.’ The group stopped short of calling for resignation, saying it was ‘still processing’ the revelation.
In a video statement released on Friday night, Northam rejected the calls for his resignation.
‘I am committed to continuing that fight through the remainder of my term, and living up to the expectations you set for me,’ Northam said in the direct appeal to voters.
Last week, Florida’s Republican secretary of state resigned after photos from a 2005 Halloween party showed him in blackface while dressed as a Hurricane Katrina victim.
During his election campaign, Northam repeatedly labeled his Republican opponent Ed Gillespie as ‘racist’.
One campaign commercial, funded by the Latino Victor Fund SuperPAC, depicted a white man in a pickup truck with a Gillespie bumper sticker attempting to run down non-white children.
‘VA is an inclusive and diverse community—we won’t put up with Ed Gillespie’s racist rhetoric and fearmongering,’ Northam wrote in an October 2017 tweet.
Northam, a pediatric neurologist who graduated from the medical school in Norfolk, Virginia in 1984, caused outrage this week when he suggested that a pregnancy could be terminated during the baby’s birth.
He made shocking abortion remarks about third trimester abortion in an interview with WTOP-FM on Wednesday, as he attempted to explain a Democrat delegate’s earlier remarks supporting a bill relaxing restrictions on late-term abortions.
The governor described a hypothetical situation where a severely deformed newborn infant could be left to die.
He said that if a woman were to desire an abortion as she’s going into labor, the baby would be delivered and then ‘resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue’ between doctors and the mother.
The remark drew immediate and furious condemnation from prominent conservatives around the country.
President Donald Trump also joined the chorus, without naming Northam, tweeting on Thursday that ‘Democrats are becoming the Party of late term abortion.’