Ralph Northam: Virginia governor apologises for 'racist and offensive' yearbook costume but refuses to resign

'I recognise that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused'

Henry Austin
Saturday 02 February 2019 02:47
Two Democratic presidential candidates have Ralph Northam to resign.
Two Democratic presidential candidates have Ralph Northam to resign.

Facing calls for his resignation Virginia’s governor Ralph Northam has apologised for a "racist and offensive" costume seen on his 1984 medical school yearbook page showing a person in blackface and another in full Ku Klux Klan robes.

It's unclear who the people in the picture are, but the rest of the page is filled with pictures of the governor and lists his undergraduate alma mater and other information about him.

The photo was verified by an official at the Eastern Virginia Medical School, where Mr Northam studied to become a paediatric neurologist. They told the Huffington Post it came from a "student-produced publication".

Mr Northam, who made headlines when he appointed Virginia's first female-majority cabinet insisted that the behaviour was not in keeping with his values and said he would work to heal the damage he has caused.

He did not say which costume he was wearing, but in a statement he said he was "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."

He added: "I recognise 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."

A copy of the photo from Eastern Virginia Medical School library was first published by The Virginian-Pilot newspaper and first published by the conservative news outlet Big League Politics.

The page shows a picture, at right, of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood next to different pictures of the governor.

The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) has called on Mr Northam to resign shortly after it was published.

"Black face in any manner is always racist and never okay,” its president Derrick Johnson tweeted.

Two prominent Democratic presidential candidates also called on him to quit.

California senator Kamala Harris tweeted that Northam should "step aside so the public can heal and move forward together."

Former secretary of housing and urban development Julian Castro tweeted a similar message. He said Mr Northam should resign because his "behaviour was racist and unconscionable."

Jack Wilson, the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, also called on Mr Northam to step down.

"Racism has no place in Virginia," he 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."

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