Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is having a disastrous week. He stepped in it with appalling remarks about late-term abortion. He doubled down, saying he had no regrets, even though many thought he was advocating for straight up infanticide; Virginia Democrats were pushing a bill that would have permitted abortions virtually up until the moment of birth. It was similar to the law New York passed. It’s ghastly. It’s immoral. It’s wrong. And it was rejected.
Then, a yearbook photo of Northam from his days at medical school surfaced. The 1984 Virginia Eastern Medical School photo shows Northam’s page with two men wearing racist costumes, one is wearing blackface while the other is in full-blown Ku Klux Klan. Northam apologized last night, admitting that he was in the photo, but didn’t specify which person. It was also clear that he was not going to resign. Real Clear Politics transcribed the video he released last night (via RCP):
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
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
I can't change the decisions I made, or cannot undo the harm that my behavior caused then, and today. But I accept responsibility for my past actions and I'm ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust.
I have spent the past year as your governor fighting for a Virginia that works better for all people. I am committed to continuing that fight through the remainder of my term and living up to the expectations you set for me when you elected me to serve. Thank you.
Also, here’s the statement he issued when the story broke [emphasis mine]:
Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.
“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.
“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. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.
“I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.”
We stand with Democrats across Virginia and the country calling him to immediately resign. He no longer has our confidence or our support. Governor Northam must end this chapter immediately, step down, and let Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax heal Virginia's wounds and move us forward.— Virginia Democrats (@vademocrats) February 2, 2019
JUST IN: Former VP and potential 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden: "There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now."— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 2, 2019
Abortion rights advocates have been a key part of Ralph Northam’s political base, especially in the primary. Planned Parenthood is now calling for his resignation pic.twitter.com/cd7hoTlJO3— Fenit Nirappil (@FenitN) February 2, 2019
TERRY McAULIFF, VA House Demcocrats, VA Black Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and several VA Democrats in Congress have now called on NORTHAM to RESIGN https://t.co/DpFcYMpHGb— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) February 2, 2019
NEWS: VA state Democrats just wrapped up an emergency conference call. Leaders concluded they cannot stand with NORTHAM after the blackface/KKK photo. More VA statements coming shortly calling for resignation.— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) February 2, 2019
"HE LIKELY WILL RESIGN IN THE MORNING," said a source on the call. https://t.co/18DTbnnfjJ
A few Democrats took the weird ‘he needs to go, but just not now’ position, though most called for him to go. Planned Parenthood, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe all called for Northam to go. Now, with Democratic heavyweights besieging him and his administration in trouble, Northam is retracting his apology (via AP):
NEWS: Northam is calling Va Dems and telling them that’s *not* him in the yearbook photo and he will make a statement this afternoon to say the same. In other words, he is NOT quitting as of right now.— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 2, 2019
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
BREAKING: A Virginia Democrat who has spoken with Gov. Ralph Northam tells The Associated Press that the governor now does not believe he was in a racist picture in his 1984 medical yearbook and has no immediate plans to resign. https://t.co/Mf1w7Vi9dr— The Associated Press (@AP) February 2, 2019
A Virginia Democrat who has spoken with Gov. Ralph Northam has told The Associated Press that the governor now does not believe he was in a racist picture in his 1984 medical yearbook and has no immediate plans to resign.
The Democrat was not authorized to speak on the record to detail a private conversation.
Northam is calling state lawmakers Saturday to try and gain support so he can remain in office, the Democrat said.
Northam has faced a torrent of criticism and calls for his resignation after a photo surfaced from decades ago that showed two people in racist costumes: One person is dressed in blackface, and another is wearing a full Ku Klux Klan uniform. The photo appeared in Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook. On Friday, Northam apologized for appearing in the photo.
And this circus continues. So, when virtually the entirety of the Democratic Party was closing in around him, Northam decided to retract his apology and dig in? You cannot make this stuff up. After long think over, it’s not me, even though the photo is on my yearbook page. I guess we’ll have to keep digging.
UPDATE: Press conference at 2:30 P.M. today. He's not resigning.
JUST IN: Virginia Gov. Northam will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET; he will not be resigning, his spokesperson says. - @frankthorp— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 2, 2019