Lots of valid questions need answers on why Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam may or my not appeared in blackface or in a Ku Klu Klan robe in 1984, smiling and holding a beer.
“There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer,” reads the caption underneath the photo that appears on Northam’s personal page in the yearbook of Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he studied to become a doctor after graduation from Virginia Military Academy.
On Friday, Northam apologized profusely and said he was one of the medical school students in the photo. Saturday, he changed his mind and denied either posing for such a photo or submitting it for inclusion on the school’s yearbook “personal page.”
Democrats and Republicans alike say the photo is more than enough reason for Northam to resign as governor.
“Racism has no place in Virginia,” Virginia state Republican party chairman Jack Wilson said in a statement. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”
“I’m disappointed and I believe that he can’t lead the party anymore,” Virginia political activist Vivian Paige, told the Washington Post. “Ralph and I are a year apart in age. It really cuts to the bone to me that someone would do that at our age. Our generation — the tail end of the baby boom — we grew up in an integrated society. How could you not know that was wrong?”
Democratic State Senator L. Louis Lucas says Northam called her early Saturday morning and said he has no plans to resign and claims now that he thinks the person in the photo is not him. Earlier, the governor admitted he was in the photo.
“He should have said that yesterday then,” she said. “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.’”
The Virginia State Democratic Party’s official statement is “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.”
National Democrats, including those running for President in 2020, say Northam has to go.
“The tide has turned,” says one aide to Northam. He said the decision on exactly what the governor will do is “still undetermined.”
Northam’s “official response” issued on Friday in both a statement and on video, says:
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.
In a tweet, NAACP president Derrick Johnson, said”
Black face in any manner is always racist and never okay. No matter the party affiliation, we can not stand for such behavior, which is why the @NAACP is calling for the resignation of Virginia Governor @RalphNortham.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Henning, who plans to run for governor in 2021, says:
Virginia’s history is unfortunately replete with the scars and unhealed wounds caused by racism, bigotry and discrimination. It is imperative that Governor Northam hears and truly listens to those who are hurt by this image as he considers what comes next.
Whatever comes next is still open. Northam is not quitting, at least not for the moment, and is sticking to his latest story that the photo he now says was not.