Virginia Governor Ralph Northam dug himself into an ever deeper hole at a press conference today, just one day after he was urged to resign by fellow Democrats over the publication of a medical school yearbook photo that appeared on his page showing a man in blackface standing next to someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood.
Today, Gov. Northam denied being one of the people in the picture despite having admitted to participating in the photo and apologizing for it yesterday.
“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 on Friday of the racist photo from the 1984 yearbook of Eastern Virginia Medical School.
Northam changed his story today and announced that he would not resign over the controversy, claiming that since he had never purchased the yearbook when it was published that he had never seen the photo before his staff showed it to him earlier this week.
The governor did not help his cause, however, by saying that although he wasn’t the person in the photo, he had worn blackface while in college while imitating Michael Jackson at a dance contest.
— CNN (@CNN) February 2, 2019
While he called the yearbook photo “offensive, racist and despicable”, Northam claimed that “I believed then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo.” He said the proof was the fact that he had a “clear memory of other mistakes I made in this same period of my life,” before he related the story of his foray into impersonating the King of Pop.
“That same year I did participate in a dance content in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume,” Gov. Northam said. “I didn’t realize at the time that it was as offensive as I have since learned.”
In case you were wondering, Northam told the press conference that he “actually won the contest because I had learned how to do the moonwalk.”
With all of his talk about learning, Northam’s response to a question about whether moonwalking was a skill that he had maintained proves that he still has a lot of learning to do when it comes to racial sensitivities. On the verge of launching into a demonstration of his dancing skills, the governor was fortunately reminded by his wife not to make the situation worse than it already was.
Despite Northam’s new PR offensive, other Democrats continued to call for his resignation.
Dear Ralph Northam: You now appear to be lying about a mix-up. You wrote a caption under the racist photograph. It references your interest in being a doctor, and beer, which is in the photo. You knew exactly what you were doing with that photo. You need to resign.@RalphNortham https://t.co/puR2n3lYIm
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 2, 2019
After Northam’s press conference ended, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement that still called for the governor’s resignation. The caucus believes that Northam’s ever-changing story about the yearbook page made it impossible for him to regain the public’s trust.
Virginia Legislative Black Caucus not swayed by Ralph Northam’s press conference. “We cannot continue this work with Governor Northam at the helm,” group says pic.twitter.com/M4BAN54enz
— Fenit Nirappil (@FenitN) February 2, 2019
With the controversy unresolved by Northam’s disastrous mea culpa, stay tuned for new developments in this story as the day goes on.
In the meantime, here’s an inspirational tweet from a young man whose mother saved him from the repercussions his request would have had on any future political ambitions he may have had.
I asked my mom to put brown makeup on my face for my Halloween costume and didn't understand why she refused to do it. I was five. pic.twitter.com/01FpK8VQJg
— brian abrams (@BrianAbrams) February 1, 2019
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by Hilary Hanson at The Huffington Post.