Northam retracts admission to racist photo, won’t resign

Published: Feb. 2, 2019 at 11:13 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Governor Northam is backtracking on his admission to appearing in a racist 1984 yearbook photo. He’s still apologizing for how the photo has hurt people. And he’s still refusing to resign from office, despite growing calls to step down.

“In the hours since I made that statement yesterday, I reflected with my family and classmates from that time and affirmed my conclusion that I am not the person in that photo,” said the Democratic Governor in a press conference in the Governor’s Mansion today.

This after he apologized Friday night for appearing in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook photo showing a person in blackface and another person in a KKK robe.

“That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents does not reflect that person I am today or the way I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor and a public servant. I’m deeply sorry,” Northam said in his original admission.

But today countered, “I recognize many people will find this difficult to believe. The photo appears with others I submitted on a page with my name on it.”

Northam says he didn’t purchase the yearbook and that the editor tells him sometimes photos are placed on the wrong page. He did admit to putting shoe polish on his face once that same year.

“That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio as part of a Michael Jackson costume,” he recalled.

But says he has since learned how it offends people.

As for the racist nickname below his photo in his Virginia Military Institute yearbook, Northan explained, "There were two individuals that were a year ahead of me at VMI that called me 'coonman.' I don't know the motives or intent."

Northam maintains he will not resign despite calls for it, including by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and others saying they’re not swayed by his explanation. Northam hopes to continue talks with these groups.

When asked why he should be believed, he answered, “I tell the truth. I’m telling the truth today. That was not my picture.”

Northam says the photo is being investigated to determine who’s in it.

Now the question will be whether his one-time supporters will believe his explanation. Even his ally, Attorney General Mark Herring, said in a statement that Northam should step down.

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