Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam lost the support of fellow Democrats in the state and across the country who called on him to resign after it was revealed he posed in a racist photo three decades ago.
Northam admitted Friday he was in a 1984 medical school yearbook picture showing two individuals in blackface and a Ku Klux Klan uniform (he did not say which one he was). Northam, 59, said he was “deeply sorry” for the “racist and offensive” photo, but said he intended to serve out the remaining three years of his term.
On Saturday, the governor reportedly told Democrats he now doubts he was in the photo and does not plan to resign.
But his party wants him gone, now.
Democratic bodies in the legislature called for him to resign, as well as Northam’s former boss, ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
“We regret to say that we are no longer confident in the Governor’s representation of Virginians,” the Democratic House caucus said. “Though it brings us no joy to do so, we must call for Governor Northam’s resignation.”
“The racism engendered by these images was real then and resurrected by these images today,” the Senate caucus said. “We are beyond disappointed. The Ralph Northam we know is a pediatric neurologist, a dedicated public servant, and a committed husband and father. Nevertheless, it is with heavy hearts that we have respectfully asked him to step down.”
McAullife, under whom Northam served as lieutenant governor, said his successor put the state in an “untenable position” and must quit.
Democratic presidential hopefuls were among the first on Friday night to call for Northam to quit.
Sen. Kamala Harris called for Northam to step aside so the public could “heal and move forward” from the “stain of racism.” Sen. Cory Booker said the images “arouse centuries of anger, anguish, and racist violence and they’ve eroded all confidence in Gov. Northam’s ability to lead.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said “hatred and discrimination have no place in our country and must not be tolerated, especially from our leaders – Republican or Democrat.” Sen. Kristen Gillibrand said “right is right and wrong is wrong.” Julián Castro, a former Obama cabinent secretary, tweeted: “It doesn’t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat. This behavior was racist and unconscionable. Governor Northam should resign.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson said “no matter the party affiliation, we can not stand for such behavior” and demanded Northam leave office.
Liberal groups added to the chorus and were unsparing in their reaction to the racist photo: The head of Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC, tweeted it was “highly disturbing” and MoveOn called it simply “horrific.”
Publisher of liberal blog the Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, said Northam’s racist “med school antics” had “no place anywhere in America.”
Virginia’s congressional delegation is not unanimous, so far, in calling for Northam’s ouster. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner condemned the photo, but stopped short of calling for Northam to resign, as did several representatives. Rep. Elaine Luria did though, saying “this isn’t about politics, this is about what is right and wrong.”