He raised a controversy over his support of a bill to legalize full-term abortion. Then Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam got hit with controversy regarding an apparently racist yearbook photo that surfaced from 1984.
The controversial image appeared in a story first broken by Big League Politics. The East Virginia Medical School yearbook photo was of two men, one wearing blackface and one dressed up in a KKK hood and robe, which appeared on Northam’s yearbook page.
And on Saturday, according to Fox News, Northam’s troubles got even worse when a story emerged that a Virginia Military Institute yearbook from 1981 had included nicknames for Northam that evoked racist imagery.
Gov. Ralph Northam graduated from VMI in 1981. https://t.co/cICGCld1uB
— WSLS 10 (@wsls) February 2, 2019
Multiple Democrats have already called for him to resign from office. Contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand were among those saying he should step down, reported CBS News.
Northam had apologized for the first photo, following the controversy. He said he was sorry for the decision he made to appear in the photo.
Northam: “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.” pic.twitter.com/JorKLuFOd7
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) February 2, 2019
At a news conference on Saturday, however, Northam backepedaled from that apology and said that neither of the men in the 1984 photo is him, according to CNN.
“I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo,” Northam said, according to CNN. “This was not me in that picture. That was not Ralph Northam.”
This left many confused.
I am so confused. Last night: “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.” https://t.co/UTYkImkNF9
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) February 2, 2019
Now, the second controvesial image has surfaced that noted nicknames for Northam that included “Goose” and “Coonman.” The latter has a notably racist quality to it.
And the social media scorn poured in.
“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.”Ok, fine. A terrible lapse in judgement, maybe. A singular mistake. Let’s lighten the mood, what was your nickname back then? pic.twitter.com/yXdsXjN93C
— AD4K (@aehorton) February 2, 2019
During Saturday’s the news conference, Northam was repeatedly pressed to provide clarifications regarding his statements — first apologizing for being in the photo and then denying he was in the photo.
He was also asked to explain the second image and the revealed nicknames. But in the midst of all of that, he admitted to something no one saw coming and that may have made things even worse — at least in terms of public ridicule, if not actual racism:
He acknowledged having worn blackface once for a dance contest in which he dressed like the late pop icon Michael Jackson and did the moonwalk with shoe polish on his face. He said that a friend told him blackface was offensive, so he vowed to never do such a thing again.
Northam also admitted that the nicknames “Goose” and “Coonman” were both given to him. He said two upper classmen had called him the latter, but did not elaborate on the meaning.
Throughout the news conference, Northam maintained his denial of being in the medical school yearbook photo. He did later say that while his action of wearing blackface while dressed up like Michael Jackson was wrong, doing so for a dance contest was not the same as what was portrayed in the yearbook photo of the blackfaced man and the klansman.
Since the yearbook controversy arose, Northam made it clear that he would not be stepping down, and did so again during the Saturday news conference. He did repeatedly stress instead that he was open to dialogue.
Although CNN falsely labeled Northam as a Republican, the governor is in fact a Democrat. Even though some high-profile members of his party have called for his ouster, it’s a fair bet that if he really were a Republican the media hue and cry would be much more intense by now.
The outrage machine would be running full throttle, with little option for Northam left but to resign.
Only time will tell if Democrats will treat him as they would a Republican and force him out of office or if they will ultimately quietly brush it aside, replacing it with a new attack against President Donald Trump or his supporters to fill headlines and newscasts.
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