RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Following the release of a racist photograph from his 1984 medical school yearbook on Friday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam resisted several calls for his resignation, some coming from previous supporters, in a video statement on Twitter.
The governor’s tweet reads: “My fellow Virginians, earlier today I released a statement apologizing for behavior in my past that falls far short of the standard you set for me when you elected me to be your governor. I believe you deserve to hear directly from me.”
Despite calling the photo from his yearbook “clearly racist,” Gov. Northam affirmed his intentions to serve out his term as Virginia’s governor in the video:
“I can’t change the decisions I made, or cannot undo the harm that my behavior caused then, and today. But I accept responsibility for my past actions and I’m ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust. I have spent the last year as your governor fighting for a Virginia that works better for all people. I’m committed to continuing that fight for the remainder of my term and living up to the expectations you set for me when you elected me to serve. Thank you.”
In a break from mounting pressure to step down, former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder is taking a different approach. In a series of tweets sent Saturday morning, Wilder indicates he feels the choice to stay in office or resign should be made by Northam.
I have had many requests for response to the revelation of Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook picture from 1984 depicting him in “Blackface or KKK garb”. 1/3— L. Douglas Wilder (@GovernorWilder) February 2, 2019
It has never been right, in Virginia, nor anywhere else to participate in or condone such mockery or insensitive behavior and for that Gov. Northam should be criticized. 2/3— L. Douglas Wilder (@GovernorWilder) February 2, 2019
This is not about politics or personal relationships, this is about government “of the people, for the people and by the people” – ALL of the people.
The choice of his continuing in office is his to make. 3/3— L. Douglas Wilder (@GovernorWilder) February 2, 2019
Several prominent members from both parties, including some who were once seen as staunch supporters of the governor, have called for Northam’s resignation since the release of the yearbook photo.
Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney, a fellow Democrat, called for Gov. Northam to step down on Friday.
“Governor Northam has a long and distinguished history of service to our Commonwealth and nation, but he should do the honorable thing and step down,” Mayor Stoney’s statement read.
Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, Virginia’s 7th Congressional District representative, also said the governor should resign.
“The bigotry depicted in this photograph is appalling. There should always be serious consequences for actions that demean, intimidate, or threaten our African-American communities. Such conduct is unacceptable for any Virginian-whether occurring in the past, present, or future. Governor Northam must resign and fully acknowledge the painful past these images evoke. Bigotry has no place in Virginia,” Spanberger’s statement said.
Virginia’s Republican leaders in the General Assembly called for Northam to explain the photograph after its release: “This is a deeply disturbing and offensive photograph in need of an immediate explanation by the Governor,” read a statement from the office of House Speaker Kirk Cox.
Later in the day, the Republican Party of Virginia tweeted Gov. Northam, “has lost the moral authority to continue to govern and should resign immediately.”
Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin, Virginia’s 4th Congressional District representative, joined several other lawmakers on Friday by calling on Gov. Northam to resign.
“I am so deeply disappointed and dismayed by the horrific picture of Governor Northam that surfaced today,” Rep. McEachin’s statement read, in part.
“In light of that stain on our Commonwealth and the work that still needs to be done. I ask the governor to step aside,” the statement continued.
Virginia’s Democrats, from the House and Senate, also asked Gov. Northam’s to step down on Friday.
After seeing the yearbook pictures that surfaced of Governor Northam today, we were shocked, saddened and offended. Virginia has a complicated racial history and past, and those pictures certainly reflect that. Black face was used to ridicule African Americans and the Klan was a source of terror and intimidation. The racism engendered by these images was real then and resurrected by these images today. 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.”
-Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus
Virginia’s House Democrats shared a similar sentiment as the Senate did, first expressing the sadness and shock of the news before calling for Northam’s resignation.
We are so deeply saddened by the news that has been revealed today. We are having trouble reconciling our experience with Governor Northam with what we see in this photo. The Governor Northam we know is a great friend and ally, who has served and dedicated himself to our Commonwealth and the nation.
However, constituents’ trust in their elected officials is paramount. We regret to say that we are no longer confident in the Governor’s representation of Virginians. Though it brings us no joy to do so, we must call for Governor Northam’s resignation.”
-Virginia House Democratic Caucus
After meeting with Gov. Northam late Friday night, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said the governor should resign.
The announcement, possibly the most important call for the governor’s resignation, came in a statement following the meeting.
“We just finished meeting with the Governor. We fully appreciate all that he has contributed to
our Commonwealth. But given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer
effectively serve as Governor. It is time for him to resign, so that Virginia can begin the process
of healing,” the statement read.
Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.