Senior Democrats on Sunday accused embattled Virginia Governor Ralph Northam of being dishonest and urged him to resign after he backtracked from an earlier admission that he appeared in racist garb in a yearbook photo, Reuters reports.
Northam, a Democrat trying to resist mounting pressure from his party to step down, on Saturday walked back his admission that he was one of two people shown in the photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook, one person in blackface standing next to another in a Ku Klux Klan costume.
The Virginia Governor, who took office a year ago, had admitted on Friday he was in the photo from the 1980s. Even as he denied it on Saturday, he admitted to dressing up in blackface to imitate the late pop star Michael Jackson in a dance contest around the same time.
“He is being completely dishonest and disingenuous,” Democratic U.S. Representative Karen Bass said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think given the overall climate around race in this country, especially over the last two years, it’s completely unacceptable,” said Bass, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.
“He’s basically saying that he participated in it and especially when he described the time that he did the Michael Jackson impression,” said Bass. “He even acted at the press conference like he was willing to moon walk until his wife stopped him, which shows that he still does not understand the seriousness of his actions.”
Bass’ sentiment was repeated by Donald McEachin, a black House member from Virginia, who said he had spoken to Northam on Friday and that the governor was apologetic. “So I was really surprised when the next day he comes out and says it’s not him,” McEachin, a Democrat, also said on “Meet the Press.” “That was quite a surprise to me.”
Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who has called for Northam to resign, said he believed he would do so. “It doesn’t matter whether he was in that photo or not in the photo at this point. We have to close that chapter,” McAuliffe said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Democratic party strategists worry that the controversy could hurt the party’s chances in the 2020 presidential election. Virginia is a competitive state that leans Democratic, Reuters adds.