Northam apologizes for yearbook photo of men in blackface, KKK robe

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued a statement Friday night acknowledging that he appeared in a photo showing a man in blackface and another dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe, saying he 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.” 

Northam did not clarify if he was the person in blackface or the KKK robe.

ADVERTISEMENT

The photo obtained by The Virginian-Pilot on Friday came from the 1984 yearbook housed in the Eastern Virginia Medical School library.

Both figures in the photo 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.

“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," Northam, who entered office last year, said in his statement Friday.

"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."

The Virginia Republican Party had called for Northam to immediately resign Friday if it was confirmed that he was one of the men in the photo.

“Racism has no place in Virginia,” Virginia Republican Party Chairman Jack Wilson said in a statement. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”

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.”