Northam Apologies for Racist College Photo
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam released a statement on Friday apologizing for an uncovered racist photo from his 1984 East Virginia Medical School yearbook that depicts him and another man in blackface and in Ku Klux Klan garb.
An accompanying quote under the photo reads: “There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world, so I think I’ll have another beer.”
CBS News reported that it conducted further research, uncovering another page in Northam’s yearbook at the Virginia Military Institute that displays nicknames listed underneath his name, including the word “Coonman,” a known racial slur.
The photo and CBS’ discovery have led some to call for Northam’s resignation.
Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris of California and former Obama Administration official Julian Castro as well as NAACP President Derrick Johnson have each called for Northam’s immediate resignation.
Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine also demanded that Northam step aside.
“This causes pain in a state and a country where centuries of racism have already left an open wound,” Kaine said in a statement.
“I hope the governor …. Now takes the time to listen to those he has hurt and reflect on how to move forward,” Kaine said.
The Governor released the following statement:
“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 take 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.”
Several hours later, Northam posted a video on Twitter saying his previous statement fell “far short of the standard you set for me when you elected me to be your governor” and “I believe you deserve to hear directly from me.”
“That photo, and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents, does not reflect the person I am today, or the way that I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor, and a public servant,” Northam said.
“I am deeply sorry. I cannot change the decisions I made, nor can I undo the harm my behavior caused then and today. But I accept responsibility for my past actions, and I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust.”