Northam Denies Being One of the Individuals in Yearbook Photo, Refuses to Resign

February 2, 2019

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D.), at a Saturday press conference, denied being one of the individuals in a 1984 yearbook photo which shows a man in a Ku Klux Klan hood next to a man wearing blackface. The governor also refused to step down despite growing calls for his resignation.

"I believe then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo," Northam said. "I recognize that many people will find this difficult to believe."

The picture first surfaced on Friday evening on the website Big League Politics and was quickly confirmed by the Virginia-Pilot and the Washington Post. Northam released a statement that admitted to being one of the individuals in the photo, although he didn't specify which one. The photo appears in Northam's Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page. Now the governor is backtracking on his original statement.

"In the hours since I made my statement yesterday, I reflected with my family and classmates from the time and affirmed my conclusion that I am not the person in that photo. While I did not appear in this photo, I am not surprised by its appearance in the EVMS yearbook," he said.

Northam did admit to previously putting shoe polish over his face for a dance competition as Michael Jackson in San Antonio, Texas.

"That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume. I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that. It is because my memory of that episode is so vivid that I truly do not believe I am in the picture in my yearbook," Northam said.

A reporter asked Northam if he was still able to moonwalk and was about to demonstrate before his wife told him it would be "inappropriate" given the circumstances.

A growing number of Democrats, including several presidential candidates, have called on him to resign.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said it is time for Northam to go. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez released a statement during his press conference that called for his resignation. Virginia's two senators, Tim Kaine (D.) and Mark Warner (D.), denounced Northam's actions in the photo but stopped short of calling for his resignation.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is African American and a descendant of slaves, released a statement of his own, in which he stated he was saddened by the images but didn't directly call for Northam's resignation.

"Like so many Virginians, I am shocked and saddened by the images in the Governor's yearbook that came to light yesterday," Fairfax wrote. "Now more than ever, we must make decisions in the best interest of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia."

Published under: Ralph Northam , Virginia