- Democrats called for Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s immediate resignation after the release of an old yearbook photo in which he appears in either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan costume.
- The photo spread across social media channels and prompted an apology from Northam.
- Despite his apology, Democrats, including candidates in the 2020 US presidential election, have called for his immediate ouster.
Democrats called for Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s immediate resignation after the release of an old yearbook photo in which he appears in either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan costume.
One of the pictures on an Eastern Virginia Medical School’s 1984 yearbook page included a man in blackface and a bow tie standing next to another person in a Ku Klux Klan-style robe and hood. The photo, first published by conservative blog Big League Politics, spread across social media channels and prompted an apology from Northam.
My fellow Virginians, earlier today I released a statement apologizing for behavior in my past that falls far short of the standard you set for me when you elected me to be your governor. I believe you deserve to hear directly from me. pic.twitter.com/1rSw1oxfrX
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) February 2, 2019
“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 written statement. “This behaviour is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service.”
“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.”
But despite his apology, Democrats, including candidates in the 2020 US presidential election, have called for his immediate ouster:
Former Vice President Joe Biden
“There is no place for racism in America,” Biden tweeted. “Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
“The photo is racist and contrary to fundamental American values,” Pelosi tweeted. “I join my colleagues in Virginia calling on Governor Northam to do the right thing so that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia can heal and move forward.”
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro
“It doesn’t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat,” former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro said on Twitter. “This behaviour was racist and unconscionable. Governor Northam should resign.”
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California suggested Northam ought to resign and seek redemption for the photo.
“No, you can’t wear a black face or a white hood and lead a state. Not now and not ever,” Swalwell said on Twitter. “But we are merciful people. Governor Northam should step down, seek forgiveness, and through good deeds earn the respect of the African-American Community.”
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, who previously described Northam as someone who “won’t stand for hatred and bigotry,” agreed with her Democratic colleagues.
“Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government,” Harris tweeted. “The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.”
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
“There aren’t two sets of rules for our friends and our foes: Right is right and wrong is wrong,” Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said in a statement. “Americans deserve to be respected by their leaders, and racism cannot be excused in our government or anywhere else.”
“Having seen the photo, I believe Governor Northam should resign.”
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who announced his candidacy for the 2020 US presidential election on Friday, condemned the photo and called for Northam’s resignation.
“These images arouse centuries of anger, anguish, and racist violence and they have eroded all confidence in Gov. Northam’s ability to lead. We should expect more from our elected officials,” Booker said in a statement. “He should resign.”
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
“These racist images are deeply disturbing,” Warren said in a statement. “Hatred and discrimination have no place in our country and must not be tolerated, especially from our leaders – Republican or Democrat.
“Northam must resign.”
Former FBI director James Comey
“Governor Northam should resign,” Comey, who was also a former assistant US attorney in Virginia and an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, said on Twitter. “Our Commonwealth is better than this and deserves better than this.”
Comey, a longtime Republican, distanced himself from the party and urged voters to support the Democratic party during the 2018 midterm elections.
Businessman, Former Mayor of New York City, and Democratic donor Michael Bloomberg
“Ralph Northam has been a good Governor and champion for gun safety, but in light of this racist and deeply offensive yearbook photo he can no longer lead Virginia effectively,” Bloomberg wrote on Twitter. “For the good of the state he should resign and step aside.”
Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia
Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, Northam’s predecessor, called it a “heartbreaking day.”
“Ralph Northam is my friend and he served well as my Lt. Governor and as Governor,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “His actions on display in this photo were racist, unacceptable and inexcusable at any age and any time.”
“The situation that he has put himself and the Commonwealth of Virginia in is untenable,” he added. “It’s time for Ralph to step down, and for the Commonwealth to move forward.”
Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California
“Gov. Northam should resign,” Lieu said during a CNN interview on Friday. “There is no defence for that shockingly racist photograph.”
Lieu noted the recent resignation of former Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel, a Republican, who left office hours after the publication of a photo of him in blackface at a Halloween party in 2005.
“This is a picture of blackface next to a KKK figure,” Lieu added. “Northam should no longer be in office.”
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia
“This causes pain in a state and a country where centuries of racism have already left an open wound,” Kaine reportedly said in a statement. “I hope the Governor … now takes the time to listen to those he has hurt and reflect on how to move forward.”
Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia
Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia said he accepted Northam’s apology, but advised him to “search his heart” if he decided to continue serving as governor.
“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,” Connolly said in a statement. “Governor Northam must search his heart to determine whether he can or should continue in office.”
“I fear that the breach of trust this represents for those who entrusted him with their votes and confidence cannot easily be recovered and the profound hurt those pictures evoke cannot easily be healed.”
Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia
“We need leaders who will bring us together instead of driving us apart,” newly-elected Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia said in a statement. “While it was proper for Governor Northam to apologise, there is no excuse for this type of photograph then or now.”
“Unfortunately, the existence of this photograph does not bring us together,” Luria added. “I ask Governor Northam to resign. This isn’t about politics, this is about what is right and wrong.”
Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California
“On the first day of [Black History Month], Northam should accept responsibility & resign,” Khanna said on Twitter.
Khanna noted that if Northam were to step aside, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would become the second African American governor in Virginia.
“That is the type of restorative justice that our nation cries out for at this time,” Khanna wrote.
MoveOn, a progressive political advocacy group
“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,” MoveOn, a progressive political advocacy group said on Twitter.
“There are no excuses for such a racist display.”
Since their original statement, the group has launched a petition urging Northam to “resign immediately.”
NAACP president Derrick Johnson
“Black face in any manner is always racist and never ok,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “No matter the party affiliation, we can not stand for such behaviour, which is why the [NAACP] is calling for the resignation of Virginia Governor [Ralph Northam].”
Virginia State Delegate Danica Roem
“I stand in solidarity with the [Virginia Legislative Black Caucus] in calling for the resignation of the governor of Virginia,” the delegate tweeted. “Who I know him to be today is not reflective of his racist past but the wound ripped open today by that racism has irreparably harmed our commonwealth and hurt our people.”
Democratic Rep. Karen Bass
“An apology now isn’t enough,” Bass tweeted to agree with the Congressional Black Caucus’s call for Northam to step down. “Resign.”
New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries
“Bigotry, Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia are on the rise,” Jeffries tweeted. “We need leaders who can move us forward, not turn back the clock. This disgusting photo and other disturbing biographical facts are disqualifying.”
Jeffries added: “If Ralph Northam refuses to resign, he must be recalled. Immediately.”
Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
“Gov. Northam should resign,” Sanders tweeted. “Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax should step in and begin a new day for Virginia.”
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