POLITICS

Democrats Call For Ralph Northam To Resign Over Racist Yearbook Photo

The Democratic Virginia governor's 1984 yearbook page shows an image of two men, one in blackface and the other in KKK robes.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is facing mounting calls for his resignation from fellow Democrats after his 1984 medical school yearbook page surfaced bearing a photo of a man wearing blackface standing next to another person wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. 

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is running for president in 2020, said in a tweet on Friday that he should “step aside,” saying “the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is also running for president, said that “racism cannot be excused in our government or anywhere else,” and she called on Northam to resign.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who’s exploring a presidential bid, called the “racist images ... deeply disturbing.” She added: “Hatred and discrimination have no place in our country and must not be tolerated, especially from our leaders — Republican or Democrat. Northam must resign,” CNN reported.

Virginia Rep. Donald McEachin also called for Northam to step aside, saying he was “deeply disappointed and dismayed by the horrific picture.”

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called it a “heartbreaking day” and called Northam “my friend.” But he said the situation is “untenable” and that Northam must resign.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who is also considering a run for president, tweeted: “No, you can’t wear a black face or a white hood and lead a state. Not now and not ever.” 

The incoming chairman of the Democratic Governors Association also called on Northam to step down. Speaking on MSNBC, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that resignation was Northam’s only choice.

Rep. Elaine Luria, who represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, also asked Northam to resign, suggesting that his leadership, in light of the photos, drives the community apart.

The photo from Northam’s yearbook was revealed Friday by Big League Politics. It originally ran in the yearbook of Eastern Virginia Medical School, from which Northam graduated in 1984. A spokesperson for EVMS confirmed the photo’s authenticity to HuffPost.

The page features the governor’s full name as well as several photos of him. Off to the side of the page is a photo of two men dressed in the racist garb.

Northam, in a statement Friday, acknowledged that he was one of the two men but didn’t say which. He also apologized for what he said was a “clearly racist and offensive” image and said he would work “to heal the damage this conduct has caused.”

“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 governor said.  

Rep. Elaine Luria, who represents Virginia’s second congressional district, asked Northam to resign, suggesting that his leadership, in light of the photos, drives the community apart.

Later Friday, Northam posted a video message vowing to serve the rest of his term as the governor of Virginia.

“I have spent the past year as your governor fighting for a Virginia that works better for all people,” he said. “I am committed to continuing that fight through the remainder of my term and living up to the expectations you set up for me when you elected me to serve.”

 

Julián Castro, who is also running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, tweeted Friday that it “doesn’t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat.”

“This behavior was racist and unconscionable,” said Castro, who served as secretary of housing and urban development under President Barack Obama. “Governor Northam should resign.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted that there is “no excuse for the shockingly racist picture” and said Northam “must resign.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) in a tweet called for Northam to resign and allow Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to succeed him, which would make Fairfax the second black governor in the state’s history.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said the fact that 35 years have passed doesn’t change anything.

“No, you can’t wear a black face or a white hood and lead a state. Not now and not ever,” Swalwell tweeted. “But we are a merciful people. Governor Northam should step down, seek forgiveness, and through good deeds earn the respect of the African-American Community.”

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Calif.) tweeted: “There are some tough calls in public life. This isn’t one of them.”

Organizations like the NAACP and MoveOn, which aren’t affiliated with the Democratic Party, also spoke out.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson said: “Black face in any manner is always racist and never okay.” 

MoveOn tweeted: “If @RalphNortham is one of the two people pictured in the highly disturbing, horrific photo wearing either blackface or a KKK hood ― or if he selected or approved of its use on his yearbook page — he should immediately resign. There are no excuses for such a racist display.”

Charles Chamberlain, who chairs the progressive group Democracy for America, said his organization was first concerned by racist elements of Northam’s campaign for governor in 2017. 

“After his refusal this evening to be completely transparent about his past actions, it’s clear that Ralph Northam has no business remaining Governor of Virginia,” Chamberlain said in a statement.

He continued: “Whether it happened yesterday or thirty-five years ago, the Democratic Party of 2019 has no place for people in positions of power with a history of racist actions. Ralph Northam should resign from his office immediately.”

The Republican Governors Association also called on Northam to step down, saying in a statement that “Virginians deserve better.”

While many in Congress urged Northam to resign, Virginia’s two Democratic senators did not.

Sen. Tim Kaine instead called on Northam “to listen to those he has hurt and reflect on how to move forward.”

Sen. Mark Warner’s statement made a similar plea: “The Governor must now listen to the people and communities he has hurt, and carefully consider what comes next.” 

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) also didn’t ask Northam to resign outright.

He said in a tweet that the governor “must search his heart to determine whether he can or should continue in office.”

“Governor Northam has acknowledged that he posed for that offensive picture, apologized and asserted that he no longer holds those racist views. I take him at his word,” Connolly said. “The question now is whether redemption and forgiveness are achievable under these circumstances and in the explosive racial environment of the Trump alt right era.”

 

Carla Herreria contributed to this report.

 

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