Following blackface scandal, Gov. Northam affirms he’s still the man for the job

Capitol Connection

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Dealing with criticism following the release of a controversial photograph in his medical college yearbook, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam says he is participating in an investigation being done into the matter.

A photograph surfaced on Gov. Northam’s Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook back in February of a man dressed in blackface and another in a KKK robe. Initially, Northam said he was in the photograph but later retracted his statement at a press conference because he didn’t recall the image being taken. 

Northam also admitted to an instance when he wore shoe polish on his face, in order to impersonate Michael Jackson for a dance-off competition during his college years. 

Following the news of this photograph, Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted to wearing blackface and two women came forward with sexual assault allegations against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. 

After announcing a $60 million business investment in Portsmouth, Va. Friday morning, Gov. Northam said he’s still the man for the job and his cabinet is working to bring equal opportunities for all Virginians, no matter their race.  

“I’ve proven that I’m a leader. I’ve got the courage, I’ve got the vision,” he said to the press. “We are really tasking our cabinet to look at race and equity in Virginia, we have a lot of inequity still. Things like access to healthcare, access to education, access to business development and so we will be focusing on that in the next three years.”

The Governor also briefly commented on Eastern Virginia Medical School’s investigation into who’s in the photograph. 

“I have participated in that investigation and until that’s complete I won’t have any further comments,” Gov. Northam said.

McGuireWoods law firm is conducting the investigation, EVMS officials say. 

“Eastern Virginia Medical School has committed to an independent external investigation of the circumstances, has placed no limits on the scope of the investigation and has committed to making the results of the investigation public,” Vincent  Rhodes from EVMS wrote in an email. “As we have stated publicly and made clear to the law firm, we want McGuireWoods to do a thorough job.”

8News reached out to Richard Cullen, an attorney with McGuireWoods, on April 8 regarding the status of the investigation. 

“It is our goal to try to complete our investigation by the end of this month,” Cullen wrote in an email to 8News. 

Cullen continued by informing 8News that McGuireWoods’ report will go to Richard V. Homan, the president of Eastern Virginia Medical School. 

When we first learned of the image, the governor mentioned a private investigator was looking into the matter as well. 

As lawmakers returned to Richmond Wednesday to make the final calls on legislation the governor made amendments to or vetoed, House Republicans said there are still so many questions for the administration about the investigation and who’s actually in the photograph if it isn’t Northam. 

“We have no guidance on where we are and where the governor is on providing those answers on that he said he would provide,” House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-District 15) said. 

Leader Gilbert also pressed that Democrats are not pushing for answers either after calling for his resignation. 

In a one-on-one interview on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-District 42) said they have to keep working with the governor despite the situation. 

“We are here to work with the Governor to support our constituents,” Leader Filler-Corn said. “Honestly what I hear our constituents want to talk about – they want to talk about the issues… In passing, maybe yes they make mention of what’s going on but honestly, they’re focused on the substance – as are we.”

We have reached out for more details about these various investigations. We’ll keep you updated. 

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