Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who is refusing to resign in the wake of revelations he wore blackface in medical school, drew scorn on social media Sunday for referring to the first Africans brought to his state as “indentured servants.”
His comment in an interview with CBS’s Gayle King brought a correction of sorts.
“Also known as slavery,” King pointed out.
While some of the 20 Africans who arrived in Jamestown in 1619 may have eventually been able to win their freedom, their journey to America was forced and historians consider it root of slavery in the United States.
Northam’s choice of words, while he was detailing the racial progress Virginia has made in the last 400 years, had viewers rolling their eyes.
Northam has been at the center of racial turmoil since the discovery of a photograph of a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe on his medical school yearbook page.
The Democrat has denied he is in the photograph but admitted that he wore blackface for a Michael Jackson costume around the same time.
He has refused to step down, a move that would put Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who has been accused of sexually assaulting two women, next in line for the seat.
And in his interview with King, which will air on CBS This Morning on Monday—he reiterated that he has not plans to resign.
“Right now, Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor. Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass,” Northam said. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere. I have learned from this. I have a lot more to learn. But we’re in a unique opportunity now.”
King also asked Northam whether he thinks Fairfax, who says contact with his accusers was consensual, should resign. He sidestepped the question.
“I can only imagine that it must take tremendous courage for women to step forward and and talk about these things that are just so hurtful. And these accusations are very, very serious,” Northam said. “They need to be taken seriously...
“If these accusations are determined to be true, I don’t think he’s going to have any other option but to resign,” he added.
“At this time, do you think he should resign?” King pressed.
“That’s going to be a decision that he needs to make,” Northam responded.
King also asked Northam if the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, should resign after he admitted to dressing in a costume with blackface. Again, he dodged.
Northam said he regrets “that our Attorney General is in this position but this is a decision that he's going to need to make.”