After apologizing and admitting he appeared in a photo of two people—one in blackface, the other in a Ku Klux Klan hood—that was published on his personal page in his medical school yearbook, Virginia governor Ralph Northam will now claim it is not him in the image, the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin reported. Northam is expected to address the controversy in a press conference at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, and a spokesman has confirmed he will not resign.
I’m at EVMS in Norfolk, Virginia (Gov. Ralph Northam graduated here). These are photos from the 1984 yearbook, including @GovernorVA Ralph Northam’s page, in a yearbook provided by the library. I’ve asked the governor’s office for comment.
Sent from my iPhone pic.twitter.com/1u3mYKJWnY
— Sarah McCammon (@sarahmccammon) February 1, 2019
It’s a bizarre twist in an already strange story. Northam appeared in a video on Friday evening, apologizing and accepting responsibility for the photo, but refused to resign. “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. “This behavior 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.”
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
But on Saturday, the Times wrote that Northam is calling medical school classmates in an attempt to “jog their memories” of the image and plans to make a statement Saturday afternoon saying he does not believe it is him, according to a Virginia Democrat familiar with his planning. Northam is even considering using facial recognition to prove he is not the one in blackface, although even if that were possible, facial recognition could not prove that Northam isn’t the person wearing the Klan hood.
The governor has also been calling his former med school classmates to jog their memories. He does NOT think he is the man in Klan hood or blackface and doesn’t want to resign before trying to determine who is in that photo.
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 2, 2019
But while Northam stalls, many of the Democratic presidential candidates are calling on Northam to step down. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Julián Castro, and Kirsten Gillibrand all issued statements to that effect. The Virginia House and Senate Democratic caucuses and the Legislative Black Caucus also weighed in and said Northam should resign, as did former Vice President Joe Biden and former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
These images arouse centuries of anger, anguish, and racist violence and they’ve eroded all confidence in Gov. Northam’s ability to lead. We should expect more from our elected officials. He should resign.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) February 2, 2019
Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 2, 2019
These racist images are deeply disturbing. Hatred and discrimination have no place in our country and must not be tolerated, especially from our leaders – Republican or Democrat. Northam must resign.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 2, 2019
It doesn’t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat. This behavior was racist and unconscionable. Governor Northam should resign.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) February 2, 2019
There aren’t two sets of rules for our friends and our foes: Right is right and wrong is wrong. 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.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) February 2, 2019
But even as Northam tries to say it’s not him in the photograph, more of the governor’s racist past is coming to light. CBS News discovered Northam’s undergraduate yearbook from Virginia Military Institute. Under Northam’s photo is the nickname “Coonman,” a racial slur.