Virginia Lt. Gov. declines to say Northam should resign

Virginia Lt. Gov. declines to say Northam should resign
© Greg Nash

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) declined to say that Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should resign despite criticizing a picture in Northam's medical school yearbook showing men in blackface and in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

“The Governor needed to apologize, and I am glad that he did so. He also reached out to me personally to express his sincere regrets and to apologize. I have worked closely with Ralph Northam over many years. He has been a friend to me and has treated my family and me with hospitality and respect,” he said in a statement after Northam held a press conference.

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“At this critical and defining moment in the history of Virginia and this nation, we need leaders with the ability to unite and help us rise to the better angels of our nature. I remain committed to serving and helping to heal the Commonwealth moving forward. Now more than ever, we must make decisions in the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” 

But Fairfax said he was “shocked and saddened” after The Virginian-Pilot released the photo from the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook on Northam’s page. 

“Like so many Virginians, I am shocked and saddened by the images in the Governor’s yearbook that came to light yesterday. They are an example of a painful scourge that continues to haunt us today and holds us back from the progress we need to make,” Fairfax, who is black, said. 

“While his career has been marked by service to children, soldiers, and constituents, I cannot condone the actions from his past that, at the very least, suggest a comfort with Virginia’s darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping, and intimidation.”

In his press conference Saturday, Northam denied that he was either of the two people in the picture, though admitted “it was offensive, racist and despicable.” He went on to reject a cavalcade of bipartisan calls for his resignation.

“I took an oath to uphold this office and serve the people of this commonwealth to the best of my ability. As long as I believe I can effectively fill that task, I intend to continue doing the business of Virginia.”

But the governor also admitted past mistakes that he said were racially insensitive, including darkening his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume for a dance competition.

Though Fairfax declined to call for Northam to step aside, the press conference did little to plug the flow of resignation calls from Democrats.

“His past actions are completely antithetical to everything the Democratic Party stands for. Virginians and people across the country deserve better from their leaders, and it is clear that Ralph Northam has lost their trust and his ability to govern,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE said, noting that he had spoken to the governor this morning. 

“It’s time for Ralph Northam to step aside and let Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax serve Virginians as their next governor.”

Two Virginia Democratic congressman, who had previously refrained from calling for Northam’s ouster, also released statements saying after the press conference saying the governor should step aside. 

“Virginia has a painful past where racism was too often not called out for its evil. The only way to overcome that history is to speak and act with absolute moral clarity. It is for that reason the Governor must step aside and allow the process of healing to begin under the leadership of Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax,” Reps. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyPelosi employs committee chairs to tamp down calls for Trump impeachment We can curb potential pandemics by investing in prevention tactics Mueller mystery: Will he ever testify to Congress? MORE (D-Va.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) said in a joint statement. 

Connolly had initially said Friday evening that Northam “must search his heart to determine whether he can or should continue in office.”