AP Photo/Steve Helber

Virginia governor confirms he was in blackface or KKK robe yearbook photo

February 01, 2019 - 6:21 pm
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RICHMOND, Va. (1010 WINS/AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s page in his 1984 medical school yearbook contains a photo of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood next to different pictures of the governor. One of the men is him, the Democratic lawmaker confirmed in an apology statement.

The photo shows two people looking at the camera — one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in white Klan robes. The rest of the half-page shows photos of Northam— in a jacket and tie, in a cowboy hat, and next to a car — beneath his name. The page lists his undergraduate alma mater and his interest as pediatrics.

Eastern Virginia Medical School via AP

In a statement in which he did not identify whether he was in blackface or a KKK robe, Northam said the following:

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.

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.

The Virginian-Pilot obtained a copy of the photo Friday from Eastern Virginia Medical School library, which Northam attended. The yearbook images were first published by the conservative news outlet Big League Politics. An Associated Press reporter saw the yearbook page and confirmed its authenticity at the medical school.

Republican state Sen. Bryce Reeves said in a statement that Northam should resign if the reports of the photos are accurate.

“I hope that this picture is inaccurate and that the Governor brings clarity to this issue. This has no place in Virginia,” Reeves said.

For now, Northam’s close allies haven’t said anything publicly. Democratic Sen. Jennifer McClellan, a well-known African-American lawmaker from Richmond, just shook her head when approached by a reporter seeking comment.

Northam, a folksy pediatric neurologist who is personal friends with many GOP lawmakers, has recently come under fire from Republicans who have accused him of backing infanticide after he said he supported a bill loosening restrictions on late-term abortions.

Last week, Florida’s secretary of state resigned after photos from a 2005 Halloween party showed him in blackface while dressed as a Hurricane Katrina victim.