Virginia Governor Ralph Northam 'overreacted' on racist photo

Charlene Craig
February 12, 2019

The governor's own troubles began when a racist image from his medical school yearbook went public on February 1.

"That same year I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume", Northam said.

Northam, a pediatric neurologist, said that he considered quitting, but has decided he's "not going anywhere" because the state "needs someone that can heal" it. "And that's why I felt so strongly about going in front of the camera on Saturday and clarifying".

Northam, meanwhile, insisted in an interview on CBS on Monday, that he would not resign over the 1984 yearbook picture, which showed a person in blackface next to another wearing the robes and hood of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. The picture was on Northam's yearbook page, next to other photos of him and under the header of his name, but it wasn't clear which, if either, of the men in this particular picture was Northam.

"We take the allegations against Justin very seriously. There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity", he said.

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- The Virginia NAACP Executive Committee is defending Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, as two women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault.

On Saturday, Fairfax issued a statement repeating his strong denials that he had ever sexually assaulted anyone and made clear he does not intend to immediately step down and says he is calling for authorities, including the FBI, to investigate. Gov. Ralph Northam and state Attorney General Mark Herring stand accused of racism for wearing blackface in the 1980s, and the governor is defying his party's calls for him to step down.

Herring, who also is white, is second in line to the governorship should the top two officials quit, but he too has resisted calls to resign.

- With files from the Associated Press. Fortunately, Gayle King quickly jumps in (thank goodness) and interjects, "Also known as slavery".

Northam faces calls to resign from Democrats at home and in Washington, D.C., as well as from advocacy groups that supported his 2017 election and from about half of Virginians, according to a Post-Schar School poll. Fairfax instead has called on "all appropriate and impartial investigatory authorities, including the FBI, to investigate fully and thoroughly the allegations against me". About two-thirds of those polled said they did not know enough about the first woman's accusation against Fairfax to make a judgment on his denial that he assaulted her, but were not asked about the second woman's allegations, which were made while the survey was underway.

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If a hearing did occur, attorneys for both of the women accusing Fairfax - Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson - say they would be willing to testify.

Many Democrats who had carefully withheld judgment after the first accusation against Fairfax, saying the matter needed to be investigated, immediately condemned him.

If Fairfax were to leave, there's no consensus on who could replace him. He's a Republican, which is giving the Democratic officerholders another reason to try to keep their positions.

Before leaving for the service in Chilhowie, a small town in the state's rural southwest corner, Northam doubled down on his determination to stay in office, pledging to promote racial reconciliation in the remaining three years of his term.

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