Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declined a reporter's request to perform Michael Jackson's "moonwalk" dance during a press conference after he said he wore blackface in the 1980s while dressed as the performer.
The admission, which came as the governor was also apologizing for an image of one young man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe appearing on his medical school yearbook page, added another layer to the racist photo controversy the Virginia governor is hoping to weather.
"That same year [as the previous racist photo was taken], I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio [Texas], in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume," Northam told reporters Saturday at a press conference.
"I look back now and I regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that," Northam said. "It is because my memory of that episode is so vivid, that I truly do not believe I am in the picture in my yearbook."
Later during the press conference, Northam was questioned by journalists including one who asked whether Northam could still perform the moonwalk.
In video of the moment, Northam appears to look around for space to perform the dance before his wife interjects that it was "inappropriate circumstances" for such a display.
Video of when Ralph Northam gets asked by a reporter if he can still moonwalk. He looks around as if for space – only to be cut off by his wife who says, "inappropriate circumstances." pic.twitter.com/jcV2VJCtoD— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) February 2, 2019
Northam's admission of wearing blackface in the dance contest comes as the governor was already facing calls to resign from prominent members of his own party including 2020 presidential contenders such as Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTwo 'View' hosts test positive for coronavirus ahead of Harris interview Rep. Karen Bass to run for mayor of Los Angeles: report Biden taps big bank skeptic to for top regulatory post MORE (D-Calif.), Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerTim Scott says police reform talks collapsed with Dems over funding Sunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies Democrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn Washington, the road almost never taken Senate poised to battle over Biden's pick of big bank critic Treasury says more rental aid is reaching tenants, preventing evictions MORE (D-Mass.).
In a statement Friday night following an eruption of criticism over the yearbook photo, Northam initially seemed to acknowledge his presence in the photo before walking that statement back during Saturday's presser.
“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's previous statement reads.
“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 rejected calls for him to leave office at the press conference Saturday, while asking Virginians for forgiveness.
“If I were to listen to the voices calling on me to resign my office today, I could spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead. I can avoid an honest conversation about harmful actions from my past. I cannot in good conscious choose the path that would be easier for me in an attempt to duck my responsibility to reconcile,” he said Saturday.