Democratic party calling Gov. Ralph Northam to resign, Northam not resigning

Image: PBS
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Ralph Northam clung to office Sunday amid nearly unanimous calls from his own party to resign over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook, going silent after a bizarre 24 hours in which he first admitted he was in the picture, then denied it.

The Democrat’s stunning about-face — at a weekend news conference where he also acknowledged putting on blackface for a dance contest decades ago and appeared to briefly entertain the notion of doing the Michael Jackson moonwalk for reporters — only seemed to make things worse.

The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus declared that Northam “still does not understand the seriousness of his actions.” The photo shows someone in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.

“I think he’s been completely dishonest and disingenuous,” Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ″He knew this picture was there, and he could’ve come clean and talked to African-Americans that he’s close to decades ago.”

Northam worshipped at his home church, the predominantly black First Baptist in Capeville, but otherwise kept out of sight on Sunday as calls intensified for him to step down.

Even if Northam doesn’t resign, the scandal threatens to cripple his ability to govern. He has lost the support of virtually all of the state’s Democratic establishment. Top Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly also urged Northam to step down, as did many declared and potential Democratic presidential candidates.

Virginia governors can be removed for “malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor” under the state constitution, but top Democrats said they don’t believe it will come to that.

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe predicted that Northam — who served as McAuliffe’s lieutenant governor — will eventually leave office.

“Ralph will do the right thing for the Commonwealth of Virginia,” McAuliffe said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Northam apologized on Friday for appearing in the photograph on his yearbook page. He did not say which costume he was wearing, but said he was “deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo.” On Saturday, though, the governor reversed course and said the picture “is definitely not me.”

While talking with reporters, Northam admitted he once used shoe polish to put on blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume for a 1984 dance contest in Texas, when he was in the Army. Northam said he regrets that he didn’t understand “the harmful legacy of an action like that.”

Asked by a reporter if he could still do Jackson’s famous moonwalk, Northam looked at the floor as if thinking about demonstrating it. His wife put a stop to it, telling him, “Inappropriate circumstances.”