Virginia governor Ralph Northam scheduled a press conference for 10 AM Eastern on Saturday morning, but as that time came and went .. and went … Northam did not appear. Instead, word came from members of the state Democratic Party that Northam was making phone calls to officials saying that he would not be leaving office. And, more incredibly, according to New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin, Northam is now claiming that he is not in a racist photo that led to widespread demands for his resignation.
Following the reveal of an extraordinarily racist photo published in the yearbook at his medical school—a photo featuring one character in blackface, the other in a KKK hood—Northam had confessed that he was in the image. He insisted that the photo “does not reflect … the man I am today.” However, the photo would seem to be absolutely condemning of the person Northam was at that time, and if he had genuinely wanted to demonstrate that he did not share these attitudes, the governor could have have exposed and condemned the photo himself long ago. The controversy over the photo was not helped by the fact that Northam claimed he could not remember which of the two people in the photo was him, as if “Did I put on blackface or a KKK hood” is something that was either so trivial it slipped his mind, or he might have participated in such events more than once.
However, now Northam is apparently making calls to claim that he is not in the photo. Which generates a whole new set of questions. Chief among them — why would Northam ever say that he was part of this racist image if he was not? Did he participate in such an event, but doesn’t believe he is one of those in the photo?
The photo has generated calls for Northam’s resignation by a broad swatch of Democratic officials, including former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, former Vice President Joe Biden, and presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Protests continued outside the Virginia governor’s mansion on Saturday morning, after Northam issued a statement on Friday evening announcing he intended to remain in office. On Saturday morning, the state Democratic Party joined in calls for Northam to “do the right thing” and step down.
Should Northam leave office, his role would be filled Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, the second African American ever to be elected to statewide office in Virginia. Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Fairfax, who is descended from slaves, sat out a celebration of Confederate General Robert Lee, which was presided over by Republicans in the state senate. He would be the state’s second African American governor, following Douglas Wilder who was the governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994. Wilder was the first African American governor of any Southern state since Reconstruction. Fairfax would be the second. Since Wilder’s election, 29 years ago, there have been no new black governors elected anywhere in the South.
Well then pic.twitter.com/fqkItIg1s0
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) February 2, 2019