Virginia governor denies appearing in racist photo
Ralph Northam resisting calls for him to resign after initially apologising for image
Virginia governor Ralph Northam on Saturday resisted mounting pressure from his Democratic party that he resign, denying that he appeared in a racist yearbook photo while admitting he once wore blackface in a dance contest.
Northam, who took office a year ago, said he would stay in his job. “As long as I feel that I can lead, I will continue to do that,” he said.
Northam had apologised on Friday, saying he was one of the people shown in the photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook, which depicted one person in blackface standing next to another in a Ku Klux Klan costume.
But on Saturday he said he looked at the photo more carefully and is sure it was not him. In a news conference alongside his wife, Northam said he had made other mistakes, including dressing up in blackface to imitate Michael Jackson in a dance contest around the same time.
“I actually won the contest because I had learned to do the moonwalk,” Northam said, referring to a dance move made famous in part by famed American singer Michael Jackson.
Northam apologised for his past actions and vowed to work to earn forgiveness.
The photo is racist and contrary to fundamental American values. I join my colleagues in Virginia calling on Governor Northam to do the right thing so that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia can heal and move forward.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 2, 2019
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.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 2, 2019
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.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 2, 2019
“I am simply asking for the opportunity to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the person I was is not the man I am today,” Northam said.
Pressure to resign
Pressure on him from within his party is growing.
“Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately,” former vice-president Joe Biden, a Democrat weighing a 2020 presidential run, said on Twitter.
Protesters gathered in front the his office in Richmond, Virginia, waving signs demanding he step down.
The head of Mr Northam’s party in the state also called on him to quit.
Former Democratic governor L Douglas Wilder said on Saturday Mr Northam should be criticised for the photos but stopped short of calling for his resignation.
“The choice of his continuing in office is his to make,” Mr Wilder said on Twitter.
Mr Northam, a 59-year-old paediatric neurologist and Army veteran, graduated from Norfolk medical school in 1984.
The Virginia-Pilot, which published the photo on Friday, said on its website it obtained a copy of the photo from the Eastern Virginia Medical School library. – Reuters