Gov. Ralph Northam Apologized For His "Racist" Yearbook Photo, But He Missed Something

by Chelsea Stewart
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Ralph Northam, seriously? You're only making this worse. For those who don't know what going on, on Feb. 1, a photo of Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) surfaced, which reportedly shows him and another unidentified man apparently wearing blackface and dressed in what looks like a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) robe. It's unclear which man is reportedly Northam in the picture, and his representatives did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on the subject. Now, he's trying to clear this whole thing up, but Ralph Northam's apology video for his "racist" yearbook photo is missing some things. Le sigh.

UPDATE: On Saturday, Feb. 2, Gov. Northam denied being one of the individuals in the photo he previously said portrayed "racist and offensive attitudes." Per CNN, Gov. Northam said in a statement to the press, "I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo. This was not me in that picture. That was not Ralph Northam." He also refused to resign, saying, "I intend to continue doing the business of Virginia ... I cannot in good conscience chose the path that would be easier for me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile." Gov. Northam's representation did not immediately reply to Elite Daily's further request for comment on the matter.

EARLIER: For context purposes, though, let's detail this situation a bit more. The photo in question appears to be on Northam's 1984 yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical School, per The New York Times. You can see it here. After the photo popped up online, Northam, a pediatric neurologist, met intense and widespread criticism, with many calling on him to resign from his position.

He addressed the public to apologize late in the evening on Friday, Feb. 1. While it's nice that he did (I guess?), it kinda feels to me like he glossed over the outrage, including calls for his resignation, highlighting his accomplishments instead. Plus, he didn't address or clarify if he was one of the individuals apparently in blackface or the one wearing the KKK outfit. Not to say that one is worse than the other, but it's probably best to own up to what you reportedly did — fully.

Here's his apology:

The full text of the video reads:

My fellow Virginians:
Earlier today I released a statement, apologizing for behavior from 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.
That photo, and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents, does not reflect the person I am today, or the way I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor, and a public servant. I am deeply sorry. I cannot change the decisions I made, or can I undo the harm my behavior caused then and today. But I accept responsibility for my past actions, and I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust. I have spent the past year as your governor, fighting for a Virginia that works better for all people. I am committed to continuing that fight through the remainder of my term and living up to the expectations you set for me when you elected me to serve.
Thank you.

According to USA Today, Northam earlier acknowledged in a written statement on Friday, "I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now."

Elite Daily reached out to Northam's representation for further comment on Northam's apologies, but did not hear back at the time of publication.

Others aren't feeling this video either.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) tweeted on Feb. 1, "These images arouse centuries of anger, anguish, and racist violence and they’ve eroded all confidence in Gov. Northam’s ability to lead. We should expect more from our elected officials. He should resign."

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), and Vice President Joe Biden also called on Northam to resign.

"Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government," tweeted Harris. "The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together."

"There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately," Biden wrote.

According to the Associated Press, The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the state House Democratic Caucus, the state Senate Democratic Caucus, and several Republicans have also urged Northam to resign from his post. Elite Daily reached out to representatives for Northam for further comment on whether he is considering stepping down as governor but did not hear back by the time of publication.

To make matters worse, a Virginia Democrat who reportedly spoke to Northam told the Associated Press on Feb. 2 that the governor now doesn't believe it's him in the photo and has been reaching out to lawmakers to gain support so he can stay in office. His representatives did not immediately return Elite Daily's request for additional comment. So that's really just packing it on.

You'll have to keep watching to see how this drama continues to unfold, but as heated as this situation is, it seems like the outcome might not be the one Northam wants. You'll have to wait and see.