WASHINGTON – Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam apologized on Friday after a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook was published, which shows a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and robes.
The photo, which was published by conservative newspaper the Virginian-Pilot on Friday, has led to calls for Northam to resign from both Republicans and Democrats.
“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,” Northam said in a statement.
“That photo and the racist and offensive attitude it represents does not reflect that person I am today or the way I have conducted myself, as a soldier, as a doctor and a public servant,” he said in a subsequent video.
Fifty-nine-year old Northam, who was 25 years old in 1984, did not clarify which of the two persons in the photo he was.
The governor’s page in the yearbook of the Eastern Virginia Medical School, which he attended, also has other photos, one in which he is in a suit, another where he’s wearing a cowboy hat and a third with him sitting next to a car.
The publication of the photo has triggered a wave of calls from all political sectors for his resignation, from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Republican Party of Virginia to Democratic presidential candidates, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro.
“These racist images are deeply disturbing. Hatred and discrimination have no place in our country and must not be tolerated, especially from our leaders – Republican or Democrat. Northam must resign,” Warren tweeted.
Despite the uproar, Northam has expressed his intention to finish his term, which will end in Jan. 2020.
“I accept responsibility for my past actions and 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 to the remainder of my term,” Northam said in the video.
If Northam does step down, he would be replaced by the state’s Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, an African American lawmaker.