Virginia GOP calls for Northam to resign after KKK, blackface photo

The Virginia GOP has called on Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to step down after he acknowledged that he appeared in a photo showing a man wearing blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

The state party called on Northam to resign after he confirmed that he was in a photo from his medical school yearbook showing two people, one in a white robe and another in blackface. The photo was published by The Virginian-Pilot and other outlets.

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"What Ralph Northam did was unforgivable. Given his statements on the right to life coupled with the most recent revelations, he has lost the moral authority to continue to govern and should resign immediately," the party wrote on Twitter.

“Racism has no place in Virginia,” Virginia Republican Party Chairman Jack Wilson said in a statement after the photos emerged, calling them "wholly inappropriate."

A page from the Eastern Virginia Medical School library features Northam’s name at the top, followed by four photos, three of which clearly show Northam.

It is unclear in the fourth photo who is wearing the KKK robe and who is dressed in blackface. Northam did not say in his statement Friday which person was him.

Both figures are holding canned beverages and the person in blackface is smiling. A caption beneath the photo lists Northam’s alma mater, the Virginia Military Institute, and a line with “Interest: Pediatrics.”  

Northam is a pediatric neurologist by trade.

The governor, who entered office last year, acknowledged in a statement Friday night that he was in the photo, saying he deeply regretted the decision.

“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 in the statement.

“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.” 

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSenate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court Breaking down barriers for American military families Top House Dem dismisses reparations as 2020 candidates endorse idea 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.

Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw (D) defended Northam earlier in the evening, suggesting many politicians had made mistakes in their pasts. 

“His whole life has been about exactly the opposite, and that’s what you need to examine, not something that occurred 30 years ago,” he told The Washington Post.

“While it’s in very poor taste, I would think no one in the General Assembly who would like their college conduct examined. I would hate to have to go back and examine my two years in the Army. Trust me. I was 18 years old and I was a handful, OK? His life since then has been anything but. It’s been a life of helping people, and many times for free.” 

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.”

— Updated at 7:30 p.m.