Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is facing mounting calls to resign after he acknowledged appearing in a picture showing a man wearing blackface and another dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe.
Multiple Democratic lawmakers and 2020 White House hopefuls have joined the Virginia Republican Party in calling for Northam to step down Friday night after the governor confirmed that he was in the photo that emerged hours earlier.
Democratic members of Congress from Virginia began calling Northam on Friday night and privately urged him to resign, a source familiar with the phone calls told The Hill. Multiple Virginia lawmakers, as well as the Congressional Black Caucus and Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, have said he should step aside.
“I don’t see the governor’s got any other choice other than to step aside,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), the vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association who is set to lead the national group in 2020, said on MSNBC.
“I say it with a heavy heart because I know him and I believe he’s a good man, but this is … disqualifying. Particularly at this moment in time and with the division in our country.”
Northam's predecessor, Terry McAuliffe (D), also called on him to step down, along with the NAACP, Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, the progressive group MoveOn and the liberal website the Daily Kos, among others.
“This has been a heartbreaking day. Ralph Northam is my friend and he served well as my Lt. Governor and as Governor. His actions on display in this photo were racist, unacceptable and inexcusable at any age and any time,” McAuliffe tweeted.
“The situation that he has put himself and the Commonwealth of Virginia in is untenable. It's time for Ralph to step down, and for the Commonwealth to move forward,” added McAuliffe, who left office last year.
Several Democratic presidential candidates called on the Virginia governor to step down in the wake of the photo, including Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisMadame Tussauds unveils new Biden and Harris figures Democrats ponder Plan B strategy to circumvent voting rights filibuster Watch: Lawmakers, activists, family members call for voting rights legislation on MLK day MORE (Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren dodges on whether Sinema, Manchin should be challenged in primaries Former aide says she felt 'abandoned' by Democrats who advanced Garcetti nomination as ambassador to India The Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness MORE (Mass.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.
"Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together," Harris tweeted.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersShame on Biden for his Atlanta remarks — but are we surprised? Overnight Health Care — Biden faces pressure from Democrats on COVID-19 Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE (I-Vt.) on Saturday called on Northam to resign and urged Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to step in and "begin a new day for Virginia." Sanders is thought to be mulling a bid for the White House.
Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzThe Hill's 12:30 Report: More of Biden's agenda teeters on collapse The Hill's Morning Report: Biden takes it on the chin Senate to take up voting rights bill Tuesday, missing Schumer deadline MORE (D-Hawaii) echoed those calls, writing on Twitter that Northam "has lost any ability to govern effectively."
House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTwo-thirds of Americans support banning lawmakers from trading stocks: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Watch: Lawmakers, activists, family members call for voting rights legislation on MLK day MORE (D-Calif.) echoed Virginia Democrats' calls for Northam to step aside, condemning the photo as "racist and contrary fundamental American values."
"The photo is racist and contrary to fundamental American values. I join my colleagues in Virginia calling on Governor Northam to do the right thing so that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia can heal and move forward," Pelosi tweeted Saturday morning.
I believe in personal forgiveness & public repentance. That is not the same as deserving the confidence bestowed in our elected officials. The picture was horrifying and deserves a clear response. Ralph Northam should resign. https://t.co/cZBbzYeMFQ— Guy Cecil (@guycecil) February 1, 2019
If @RalphNortham is one of the two people pictured in the highly disturbing, horrific photo wearing either blackface or a KKK hood – or if he selected or approved of its use on his yearbook page — he should immediately resign. There are no excuses for such a racist display.— MoveOn (@MoveOn) February 1, 2019
Black face in any manner is always racist and never okay. No matter the party affiliation, we can not stand for such behavior, which is why the @NAACP is calling for the resignation of Virginia Governor @RalphNortham— Derrick Johnson (@DerrickNAACP) February 1, 2019
Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 1, 2019
It doesn’t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat. This behavior was racist and unconscionable. Governor Northam should resign.— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) February 1, 2019
Gov. Northam should resign. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax should step in and begin a new day for Virginia.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 2, 2019
He should resign. It’s not a close call. It’s awful. It’s shocking. He has lost any ability to govern effectively.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) February 2, 2019
The photo is racist and contrary to fundamental American values. I join my colleagues in Virginia calling on Governor Northam to do the right thing so that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia can heal and move forward.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 2, 2019
Not everyone immediately joined in calling for Northam to resign.
Virginia's two U.S. senators — Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineWhite House dismisses report of new Build Back Better package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Democrats ponder Plan B strategy to circumvent voting rights filibuster MORE (D) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerWe are America's independent contractors, and we are terrified Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two Senate Judiciary Committee to debate key antitrust bill MORE (D) — condemned the photo of Northam but stopped short of calling for him to step aside on Friday night.
Northam issued a statement Friday night apologizing for appearing in the picture from his medical school yearbook and released a video later in the evening reiterating his regret over the photo. He also indicated he did not plan to step down.
“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 his statement.
"That photo and the racist and offensive attitude it represents does not reflect the person I am today or the way I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor and a public servant," he said in the video.
"I accept responsibility for my past actions and I'm ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust. I have spent the past year as your governor fighting for a Virginia that works better for all people. I am committed to continuing that fight through the remainder of my term."
The photo obtained by The Virginian-Pilot came from the 1984 yearbook housed in the Eastern Virginia Medical School library. Northam acknowledged that he appeared in the photo but did not clarify if he was wearing blackface or the KKK robe.
BREAKING: Gov. Ralph Northam yearbook page shows blackface and Klan photohttps://t.co/6A89ejp5Ho— The Virginian-Pilot (@virginianpilot) February 1, 2019
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.
The Virginia Republican Party was among the first to call for Northam to immediately resign Friday.
“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.”
– Scott Wong contributed reporting
— Updated Feb. 2 at 12:17 p.m.