Lemon: There’s 'no way' Northam didn't know what he was doing in photo

CNN’s Don Lemon said Friday that there was “no way” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) did not know what he was doing when he appeared in a photo showing a man wearing blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

“This is a yearbook photo from 1984, not 1954. He was 25 years old. He was in medical school,” Lemon said. “There’s no way he didn’t know what he was doing when he posed for that picture.”

Lemon tore into the governor in a 7-minute monologue after Northam acknowledged that he appeared in the photo and apologized, but did not clarify if he was the person in blackface or the KKK robe.

The Virginian-Pilot reported the photo earlier Friday, which was taken from a yearbook during Northam's time at Eastern Virginia Medical School.


Lemon said he would not let people dismiss Northam's behavior in the photo as childhood antics.

“Kids do stupid things. They take dumb photos. But this is more than dumb, this is racist,” Lemon said.

Lemon said if you are trying to brush off the photo as a “stupid” incident from Northam’s adolescence, “check yourself.”

The picture “is a slap of face to Americans of color — quite frankly, to every American,” the CNN host said.

News of Northam’s photo broke on Friday, the first day of Black History Month.

“Maybe it’s good we’re having this discussion, but how many discussions like this are we going to have?” Lemon asked.

Northam, a pediatric neurologist by trade, apologized for the photo but did not resign on Friday.

“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," Northam said in a statement.

“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," he continued.

The apology did little to stem public outcry. Northam has faced several calls to immediately resign from Virginia Republican Party, the NAACP and several prominent Democratic presidential candidates.

"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," Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Democrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (D-N.J.) tweeted.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWhy Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Enlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats MORE (D-Calif.), another African-American running for president, said Northam should resign so Virginia can “move forward together.”

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottHow much damage? The true cost of the Senate's coronavirus relief bill Senate unanimously passes T coronavirus stimulus package Senate rejects GOP attempt to change unemployment benefits in coronavirus stimulus bill MORE (R-S.C.), the only black Republican senator, said Northam’s apology does not excuse the photo and called on Virginians to “make their voices heard” in response.

“To be clear, while a quick apology is good, it does not excuse the choices made by @GovernorVA as an adult enrolled in medical school. The people of VA will make their voices heard;I hope they will shout far&wide that there are consequences for such showcases of prejudice&hate,” he tweeted.

A similar photo that surfaced earlier this month forced newly inaugurated Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel (R) to resign.

The photo showed him dressed in blackface as a “Hurricane Katrina victim.”