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Va. Governor Explains Shifting Statements on Racist Photo

As Hillary Clinton, state's senators say he has to go
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 3, 2019 6:15 AM CST

(Newser) – Virginia's embattled governor on Saturday pledged to remain in office after disavowing a blatantly racist photograph that appeared under his name in his 1984 medical school yearbook—and more calls for his resignation followed. After Gov. Ralph Northam spoke on Saturday, both of Virginia's US senators said they called Northam to tell him that he must resign, reports the AP. 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." The Virginia Democratic Party and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus had earlier called for his resignation. More:

  • Hillary Clinton placed herself in the "resign" camp on Saturday. She wrote in a tweet, "This has gone on too long. There is nothing to debate. He must resign."
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weighed in too, tweeting, "Northam must resign, and those who try to help him stumble past this deserve scrutiny. If you can’t understand how painful + eroding this is to American society, let alone the state of Virginia, take some time to read up this weekend. To start, try 'Between the World and Me.'"

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  • In a tweet late Saturday, President Trump called Northam's actions related to the photo and abortion debate "unforgiveable!"
  • 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 Ku Klux Klan garb. 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.
  • Fox News reports the president of the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk—the one Northam attended—said in a statement Saturday that "an external investigation" will soon begin into all past yearbooks to "determine the processes for publishing those yearbooks [and] discover what, if any, administrative oversight was exercised."
  • 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 US Army. Northam said he regrets that he didn't understand "the harmful legacy of an action like that."
  • 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. He was pushed repeatedly by reporters to explain why he issued an apology Friday if he wasn't in the photograph. "My first intention ... was to reach out and apologize," he said, adding that he recognized that people would be offended by the photo. But after studying the picture and consulting with classmates, Northam said, "I am convinced that is not my picture."
(Read more Ralph Northam stories.)

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