Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says he won’t resign and wasn’t shown in a yearbook photo showing a blackface costume and KKK robe that prompted Democrats and Republicans alike to call for him to step down, according to a high-ranking Democratic official.
Northam initially planned to resign after apologizing for appearing in the photo and speaking with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, but later had a change of heart, the Virginia Democrat told News4 and Tom Sherwood. He now insists neither figure wearing a racist costume was him.
Northam says he never dressed up as anything in college and has medical school roommates that will support his statements, a source told News4.
He plans to make an official statement at 2:30 p.m. Saturday amid immense pressure to step down.
On Friday, Northam apologized for appearing in the photo, which was printed in a medical school yearbook on a page titled with his name.
“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,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.
NBC News was able to locate the yearbook from Eastern Virginia Medical School and find the page featuring the photo.
Later Friday, he posted an apology video on Twitter, saying, “That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents does not reflect that person I am today or the way that I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor and a public servant.”
Northam hasn’t said why he reneged on admitting that he appeared in the photo.
The Virginia Democratic Party continued to call for Northam to leave office.
“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 this morning,” a statement from the party said.
They reiterated a call for the governor to step down and allow Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax to lead the state.[[505232352, C]]
“We stand with Democrats across Virginia and the country calling him to immediately resign. He no longer has our confidence or our support.”
The Associated Press also reports that Northam has no immediate plans to resign.
Northam initially gave no signal in two public statements that he would resign, and has not provided a public update since.
“I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust. I have spent the past year as your governor fighting for a Virginia that works better for all people. I am committed to continuing that fight through the remainder of my term and living up to the expectations you set for me when you elected me to serve,” he said in a video posted Friday night.
It’s unclear how Northam’s future as governor will play out without support from his own or opposition parties.
After Northam publicly said that he appeared in the photo, a wave of calls for resignation crashed onto Richmond from the left and right. Pressure mounted after he met late Friday with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.
“We fully appreciate all that he has contributed to our Commonwealth. But given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as Governor,” the VLBC said.
“That might have been the tipping point,” longtime News4 political reporter Tom Sherwood said.
Criticism erupted over a photo from 1984 that was published Friday by the conservative outlet Big League Politics. Northam said Friday that he is featured in the photo, which was printed on his yearbook page next to photos of him.
On Saturday, he said he wasn’t in the photo.
Former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, the state’s first and only African-American governor who was elected in 1985, said it is appropriate to criticize Northam.
“It has never been right, in Virginia, nor anywhere else to participate in or condone such mockery or insensitive behavior,” Wilder said in a written statement.
He stopped short of calling for a resignation, saying it’s up to Northam to decide.
Prominent figures including former Vice President Joe Biden, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, several 2020 presidential candidates and the NAACP called for Northam to leave office.
Protesters also gathered outside the governor’s mansion in Richmond demanding Northam resign.
Sherwood reports that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was preparing to take over the governor’s seat. Fairfax is the second African-American ever man to be elected to statewide office in Virginia.
Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox, Majority Leader Todd Gilbert and more legislative leaders said Saturday that Northam should resign.
“We agree with the powerful words of our colleagues in the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus,” a group statement said. “His ability to lead and govern is permanently impaired and the interests of the Commonwealth necessitate his resignation.”
State Sen. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, a close ally of Northam and longtime African-American lawmaker, told The Associated Press on Saturday black leaders felt “mortally wounded” by the photo and that he has no option but to resign.
“He betrayed us,” she said.
Here’s more reaction from political leaders:[[505244762, C]]
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Source: NBC San Diego