WASHINGTON — As Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam resisted calls to resign over a racist photo that appeared under his name in his medical school year book, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax remains in the wings as the man who would replace him if Northam were to step down.
Northam denied on Saturday that he was either person in a photograph that showed one person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe. The governor said he had “darkened’ his face with shoe polish for a Michael Jackson costume in 1984, however.
While Northam apologized and asked for forgiveness on Saturday, he also noted that he maintained a good relationship with Fairfax, who would be America’s fifth-ever black governor were he to take Northam’s place.
“Justin and I have a very, very close relationship,” Northam said at the press conference Saturday. “He has been very supportive … he is a wonderful person.”
On Saturday, Fairfax released a statement saying he was “shocked and saddened” by the images that appeared in Northam’s yearbook.
“The Governor needed to apologize, and I am glad that he did so,” Fairfax said. “He also reached out to me personally to express his sincere regrets and to apologize.”
He added that the two have worked closely for many years. “He has been a friend to me and has treated my family and me with hospitality and respect,” Fairfax said.
Fairfax said despite Northam’s career of service to American children, soldiers and constituents, he could not condone the governor’s actions from his past.
“Now more than ever, we must make decisions in the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he concluded.
Fairfax, 39, was only the second African-American elected statewide in Virginia when he won the post alongside Northam in 2017.
The Duke and Columbia-educated lawyer has been a rising star in the party since making his first run for office 2013, after serving as a federal prosecutor in the high-profile Eastern District of Virginia.
Fairfax lost that first campaign for attorney general in a Democratic primary, but…
It’s 400 years since the ship carrying the first African slaves to America docked on the coast of Virginia, beginning a process that would see millions of black people forced into servitude.
The state has spent the better part of a decade planning for 2019 to be a solemn remembrance, with a series of exhibitions and ceremonies aimed at recognizing that dark past, and looking to a more inclusive future.
But in the space of a week all that endeavor has been forced into the background, with Virginia’s leaders instead seemingly engaged in a bid to singlehandedly revive the art of blackface.
Ralph Northam, Virginia’s governor, kicked things off when he admitted to being in a college yearbook photo that showed a man in blackface next to a man in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. As Virginia, and soon the nation, reeled from that revelation, Northam then denied he was in the image, but said he had indeed worn blackface in the past, to impersonate Michael Jackson during a dance competition.
As the governor clung on, the state’s attorney general Mark Herring, the man third in line to replace Northam should he have to quit, confessed to his own dalliances with blackface. Herring said he had worn “dark makeup” while dressing as the rapper Kurtis Blow.
As much of the nation has looked on in horror, all three men have refused to resign. Many have been stunned by the efforts of Northam and Herring to attempt to place into context their blackface makeup shenanigans. Both have cited their age at the time – Northam was 25, Herring was 19 – and that the incidents occurred in the 1980s, as providing some sort of reasonable explanation. But others have pointed out that 25 years old is not that young, and 1980 was not that long ago.
Still, for all the surprise outside, and inside, the state, many say they are not shocked.
“For me the scariest part is – and this has been said in the black community for decades – what happened this past week was that things we know exist came to the surface,” said Francesca Leigh-Davis, who co-hosts the RVA Dirt local politics radio show in Richmond, the Virginia state capital.
Leigh-Davis and her RVA Dirt co-hosts, Melissa Vaughn and Jessee Perry, organized a demonstration outside the governor’s mansion. Scores of people held signs and chanted “Northam has got to go” as the governor held a news conference inside – where he told reporters about his shoe-polish-assisted Michael Jackson impression.
Northam hasn’t been seen in public since. He has resisted calls from Democrats, including the Virginia legislative black caucus and candidates for the White House, to resign, and has hired a crisis communications firm.
To the outsider, Virginia has been moving left politically over the past decade, to the extent that some have mused whether the state, which brushes up against Washington, DC, in the north-east, should even still be considered part of ‘The South’, in the parlance of the US civil war.
The state elected Douglas Wilder, the first African American to serve as governor in the US since reconstruction, in 1989. More recently, Virginia voted for Barack Obama in 2008 – the first time the state had pledged for a Democrat in the White House in more than 40 years, and backed Obama again in 2012. In 2016 Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 5% in the state.
But Cornell Brooks, a Virginia resident and former president of the NAACP, and a…
A racist photograph on the 1984 yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia.
An accusation of sexual assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Both reports — the first triggering an earthquake in Virginia politics last week, the second setting off an aftershock on Monday — were originally published by an obscure right-wing news site, Big League Politics, which has promoted conspiracy theories and written favorably about white nationalist candidates.
But as mainstream news outlets scrambled to confirm the photograph on Mr. Northam’s medical school yearbook page on Friday, it became clear that Big League Politics — and its mission of promoting the Trump agenda and nationalist causes — had assumed outsized influence in an increasingly Democratic state.
The website has dealt a severe blow to Mr. Northam, who first admitted to posing for the photograph, then reversed himself and has refused to resign despite enormous pressure from fellow Democrats in Virginia and around the nation, throwing his state’s politics into a crisis.
A cloud also now hangs over the head of Mr. Fairfax, who would succeed Mr. Northam if he resigns, after Big League Politics published unsubstantiated accusations that he sexually assaulted a woman he met at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
Big League Politics is a relatively new entry to the constellation of right-wing media outlets that sprung up during Donald Trump’s rise, and until the bombshell yearbook report, its readership had remained small.
Patrick Howley, the editor in chief, said he received the photograph showing a pair of figures in blackface and Ku Klux Klan robes from a “concerned citizen,” declining to add more details.
But one of Big League Politics’s owners, Noel Fritsch, described the source of the photograph as “some people who were classmates of Northam,” who brought it to light out of anger at the governor’s remarks early last week defending late-term abortions.
In its mission statement, Big League Politics purports to be “not conservative” and “not liberal,” but it has trafficked in conspiracy theories favored by the far right, like the case of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staff member whose murder in Washington was falsely seized on by conservative commentators as linked to WikiLeaks.
And Mr. Fritsch, a North Carolina-based political consultant, has worked for Paul Nehlen, an anti-Semitic Wisconsin congressional candidate who challenged former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, and Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers. Last…
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is facing mounting pressure to resign after a racist photo from his yearbook surfaced.
The photo, which features a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe, was featured on Northam’s page in a 1984 medical school yearbook. The Virginia Democrat first apologized for being in the photo but later backtracked and said he didn’t believe he was pictured.
Since the photo was widely publicized, a number of prominent figures have called on Northam to resign:
Virginia Democrats Rep. Bobby Scott and Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner
Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va.
“We were elected to the State Senate at the same time. But look, he’s lost the authority to lead. He’s lost the authority to govern. He has to resign. It’s in the best interest of the Commonwealth. It’s in the best interest of the party.”
No doubt Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wish their yearbook pages had come with the warning labels: “THIS INFORMATION WILL BE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. GET IT APPROVED BY A POLITICAL CONSULTANT BEFORE SUBMITTING.”
Northam’s 1984 yearbook includes a photograph of two people dressed up, one in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. A different yearbook from a few years earlier lists the nickname “coonman” under his picture. Kavanaugh’s 1983 yearbook has the words “Devil’s Triangle” and “FFFFFFourth of July” under his photograph.
Northam at first admitted he was in the photograph, then said he wasn’t. He blamed two upperclassmen for giving him the nickname “coonman,” and said he had no idea what the word meant, though…
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam told reporters on Saturday that he does not believe he is one of the two people in a racist photo featured in his school yearbook.
Standing by his wife, Pam, the Democratic governor admitted to “darkening his face” in a Michael Jackson dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, around the same time. But he said he is sure he is not one of the two people pictured in blackface and in a Ku Klux Klan hood in his 1984 medical school yearbook page.
“I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo,” Northam said.
When asked about political leaders who are asking for his resignation, Northam said if he can communicate that he is not the person in the photograph, he can continue to lead. If not, he said he will make a decision on…
Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, denied he was one of the people dressed in a Ku Klux Klan uniform or in blackface in a photo from his medical school yearbook page, amid pressure to resign.
Delivering a statement in Richmond on Saturday afternoon, the Democrat conceded it would be difficult for many people to believe he was not in the photo when just 24 hours earlier he had said he was.
Nonetheless, he said: “I am not either of the people in the photo.”
He also admitted to darkening his skin with shoe polish when he was young, to enter a dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, dressed as Michael Jackson.
Northam said he was ignoring the chorus of people calling for his resignation because that would be taking the easy way out.
“I’m asking for the opportunity to earn your forgiveness,” he said.
There was little forgiveness in the air in national and state political circles. Most 2020 Democratic contenders demanded Northam’s resignation and before he spoke Susan Swecker, chair of the Democratic party of Virginia, said: “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. We stand with Democrats across Virginia and the country calling him to immediately resign.”
The photo was included on Northam’s 1984 yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical School and was made public on Friday. The Democratic governor then confirmed he was one of the two people in the photo, but did not identify which individual he was.
That certainty had apparently dissolved by Saturday, when Northam was first reported to be making calls to obtain more information about the photo and then said neither of the people in the black-and-white image was actually him.
“My first impression was this couldn’t be me,” Northam told reporters at the Executive Mansion.
Northam claimed he saw the yearbook for the first time on Friday and had not been involved in its production. He said he spoke to classmates from the time to confirm his suspicion he was not in the photo.
The Democratic governor of Virginia apologized for his appearance in a “racist and offensive” costume in his medical school yearbook, but he defied bipartisan calls to step down Friday evening and intends to serve out his term.
“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,” said Governor Ralph Northam in a statement.
The photograph shows a person in blackface standing next to a person wearing the white robes and hood of the Ku Klux Klan. It is not apparent which figure is Northam, and the governor’s statement did not clarify that point, stating only that it shows “me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive”.
Other photographs on the yearbook page show a young Northam in a suit, wearing a cowboy hat, and sitting by a car. The page lists his interest as “pediatrics” and includes the following quote: “There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.”
The 59-year-old Northam was elected governor of Virginia in 2017, after having served a four-year term as lieutenant governor of the state. He had previously served in the US army, attended Eastern Virginia Medical School, and worked as a pediatric neurologist.
A political candidate once gained traction in the Kansas governor’s race running on only a single issue.
That political outsider — to put it in today’s terminology — was Emporia’s own William Allen White, and he wanted to ensure the Ku Klux Klan did not gain a foothold in Kansas, much as it had in several other states at the time.
Author Beverly Olson Buller, who has published several books on White and chairs the William Allen White Children’s’ Book Awards, presented on White’s 1924 run for governor Monday at Emporia State University.
The talk addressed the attempted rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Kansas and what White did to help shut it down.
The owner, publisher and editor of The Emporia Gazette began speaking out against the Klan in 1921. He wrote scathing editorials about them in his newspaper, while around the state Klan members attempted to pass the KKK off as a charitable organization and to infiltrate communities such as Emporia.
Measures taken included the attempted publication of a list of guests at the Broadview when the hotel hosted a Klan convention and persistent mockery of the Klan, its members and its uniforms.
Buller said she believes a fear of foreigners is what caused the Klan’s resurgence in the 1920s.
Whatever the cause, this resurgence ultimately resulted in White running for governor as an Independent candidate in the 1924 election. He came in last, but according to Buller he chose to campaign for three other candidates for office while he traveled the state, trying to garner votes for himself. Those three anti-KKK candidates all won their races, including incumbent Attorney General Charles B. Griffith.
Griffith ultimately denied the Klan a charter in the state, effectively banning them. According to Buller, Kansas was the first state to bar the Klan from meeting.