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McAuliffe Made Excuses for Northam's Racist Yearbook Photo After Condemning It

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

As then-governor Ralph Northam's scandal over a racist photo in a medical school yearbook was blowing up, Terry McAuliffe — now running to replace Northam as Virginia's governor — didn't mince words. 

In a tweet calling for Northam to resign over the scandal in February of 2019 — one that echoed similar calls from Republicans and Democrats across the country but went unheeded — McAuliffe called Northam's "actions on display in this photo... racist, unacceptable and inexcusable at any age and any time."

As it turns out, that wasn't necessarily McAuliffe's true opinion of what Northam did and what he should do to make amends — or at least that wasn't what McAuliffe said at an event a few months later in July of 2019. 

In a new report from CNN of all places, it is revealed that McAuliffe defended Northam's racist photo:

"Listen, even if it had been him in the blackface. You know," shrugged the former Democratic Virginia governor. "It was a dumb mistake 40 years ago."

McAuliffe calling the racist photo "a dumb mistake" is quite different from his tweet saying Northam's yearbook photo had put Virginia in an "untenable" situation. And writing it off as being "40 years ago" doesn't sound like the initial statement that Northam's actions in the photo were "inexcusable at any age and any time." 

McAuliffe's comments on the scandal got worse, though: 

"I grew up in New York. And in all fairness folks, I didn't know what blackface was. You know, I had not experienced, we had no racism issues, honestly, growing up in Syracuse," he said at an event promoting his book in July 2019.

Apparently, since McAuliffe grew up in a place where he wasn't aware of blackface, that means he can shrug off Northam's racist yearbook photo as no big deal, just a youthful indiscretion. A McAuliffe campaign spokesperson told CNN that "Terry has always been clear that what happened in that photo was wrong," except he hasn't been clear about that, as CNN's report makes abundantly clear. 

More from KFile on the origin of the remarks:

CNN's KFile reviewed McAuliffe's remarks, which were made in an interview with the Hudson Union Society, a members-only social group in New York City, which hosts celebrities and well-known figures. A clip of the interview was uploaded to YouTube last January.

The interview came just months after McAuliffe, along with other Democratic politicians, called on Northam to resign after it was revealed Northam appeared in a racist yearbook photo from his medical school, showing one person dressed in blackface and another in the KKK's signature white hood.

McAuliffe's private (until now) remarks significantly contradict the public statement that was certainly more politically expedient. But his true feelings about Northam's blackface scandal do help explain why McAuliffe hasn't shied away from Northam's endorsement or campaigning with him. 

Now down to the final days of Virginia's gubernatorial campaign, the latest polling has McAuliffe in a dead heat with Republican Glenn Youngkin. Next week, President Biden will join McAuliffe just across the river from D.C. in Arlington, Virginia for a campaign event, while Youngkin is setting out on a 10-day, 50-stop bus tour across Virginia. 

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