RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has vowed to remain in office despite widespread calls for his resignation after a “racist and offensive” photo surfaced in his yearbook page from more than 30 years ago.
Northam said at a news conference Saturday that he had prematurely apologized for appearing in a picture of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. The photo appeared in his 1984 medical school yearbook.
The Democratic governor said Saturday that he, in fact, was not in the photo and had never even seen the yearbook until Friday.
His refusal to resign signals a potential bruising fight between Northam and his former supporters. Leaders in both parties have repeatedly urged Northam to resign, saying he’s lost the public’s trust.
“I intend to continue doing the business of Virginia,” he said, adding that resigning would be the easier way out.
“I could spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead. I could avoid an honest conversation about harmful actions from my past,” he said. “I cannot in good conscience chose the path that would be easier for me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile.”
Northam told reporters that while he took responsibility for the photo shown in the yearbook, yesterday when his staff showed him the photo was the first time he saw it. He said he did not purchase the yearbook and was not aware of the photo in question.
Asked about whether he had ever worn a KKK uniform as was seen in the photo, he answered, “I am not the person in that uniform, and I am not the person to the right.”
As for his inconsistency on whether he was or wasn’t in the photo, Northam said he was able to sit down last night and take full stock of the photo.
“What has happened, I finally had a chance to sit down and look at the photo in detail. It is definitely not me,” he said in response to questions.