A flurry of calls for Virginian Gov. Ralph Northam to resign came Friday after photos surfaced of the first-term governor’s 1984 medical school yearbook page depicting one man in blackface next to another sporting a Ku Klux Klan outfit.

During a Saturday press conference that many believed would be Northam’s last, the governor, standing beside his wife and cracking an occasional grin, walked back his initial statement where admitted he was in the blackface photo. Instead, Northam said his earlier comments were mistaken and denied any previous knowledge of the picture or being apart of it.

Later on however during a q&a, Northam admitted to donning blackface once before for a San Antonio dance contest that same year, only as a part of a Michael Jackson costume, bragging how he had won because of his moonwalk. He latest discussed how difficult it was to remove shoe polish from skin.

“I had the shoes. I had a glove. And I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put on my cheeks and the reason I used a very little bit because – I don’t know if anyone’s ever tried that – you cannot get shoe polish off,” he said. “I had always liked Michael Jackson. I actually won the contest because I had learned to do the moonwalk.”

Northam still took responsibility for the picture. “The person I was is not the man I am today,” he said. “I ask for the opportunity to ask for your forgiveness.”

However, many think it’s too late. Blowback from Democrats has been swift, with nearly all the Democratic presidential hopefuls, the state’s legislative Black Caucus, national leaders as well as African American activist groups across the country have called for Northam’s resignation.

In another stunning blow both of the states past governors, Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine signed a joint statement with a Rep. Bobby Scott, who is African-American and a prominent member of the House delegation calling on the current governor to resign, saying “the events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also weighed in on the picture calling it “racist and contrary to fundamental American values” before calling on the governor to “do the right thing” on Twitter.


“What’s worse: you putting this racist photograph on your medical school yearbook and not knowing if you were in blackface or dressed as the Klan, or today you wanting us to believe that you were mistaken,” former president of the NAACP Ben Jealous told Politico in an interview. “It’s on his page in his medical school yearbook. Just putting it there shows he was ok. with it. His explanation is not believable.”

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