State Watch

Northam reasserts he's not in racist yearbook photo after probe

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Wednesday reasserted that he was not in a racist photograph that appeared on his medical school yearbook page in 1984.

Northam weighed in after investigators from a law firm said they could not determine who was pictured in the image, which showed one man wearing blackface and another dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

"I have cooperated with Richard Cullen and his team over the course of their investigation, both by making myself available for interviews and by turning over the findings of my private inquiry into the matter. I am not in the racist and offensive photo that appears under my name in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook," Northam said in a statement, referring to the investigators.

The law firm examining the picture said Wednesday that it could not determine how the image appeared on Northam's yearbook page but found no evidence that it was placed there in error.

Investigators found 10 photos depicting people in blackface while reviewing yearbooks from Eastern Virginia Medical School, where Northam graduated in 1984.

Controversy first erupted in February when a conservative media outlet uncovered the photo showing two men on Northam's medical school yearbook page, leading to bipartisan calls for the governor's resignation.

The governor initially said he appeared in the image, but later walked that statement back and declared he was neither of the two men pictured. However, he did admit that he wore blackface during a dance competition in the 1980s.

"I know and understand the events of early February and my response to them have caused hurt for many Virginians and for that, I am sorry. I felt it was important to take accountability for the photo's presence on my page, but rather than providing clarity, I instead deepened pain and confusion," Northam said Wednesday.

"In visits with local leaders across the Commonwealth, I have engaged in frank and necessary dialogue on how I can best utilize the power of the governor's office to enact meaningful progress on issues of equity and better focus our administration's efforts for the remainder of my term."

Intensifying the February scandal, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) also admitted to wearing blackface as a teenager and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) was accused by two women of sexual assault. Bipartisan calls ensued for both Herring and Fairfax's resignations.

The scandals have caused concern among state Democrats ahead of Virginia's midterm elections later this year.

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