Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam spoke to reporters on Saturday to explain the yearbook picture where he appeared to be wearing either blackface or a KKK costume and to announced that he has no plans to resign.
Regarding the photo in his medical school yearbook, Northam said the photos were “racist and offensive and despicable.”
He said when his staff showed him the yearbook photo yesterday, “I was seeing it for the first time.” He claims he was unaware of the yearbook picture until his staff brought it to his attention this week.
“I believed then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo,” he explained.
“I stand by my statement of apology to many Virginians who were hurt by seeing this content on a yearbook page that belongs to me. It is disgusting, it racist, and it was my responsibility to recognize and prevent it from being published in the first place.”
“The photo appears with others I submitted on a page with my name on it,” he said. “In the hours since I made my statement yesterday, I reflected with my family and classmates at the time and affirmed my conclusion that I am not the person in that photo,” he reiterated.
“My belief that I did not wear that costume or attend that party stems in part from my clear memory of other mistakes I made in that same period in my life,” said Northam.
He went on to describe a party in college at which he “darkened” his face “as part of a Michael Jackson costume.” He said that because of his vivid memories of that party, “I truly do not believe that I am in the picture in the yearbook. You remember these things.”
So is he only denying that one individual in the year picture is him?
Northam is reading a carefully worded statement, so those words are no accident. The words “that costume” suggest that he may be leaving a little wiggle room to walk back his denial.
Later in the statement, Northam discussed some non-specific actions in his past that were insensitive but insisted that he had grown and has since dedicated his life to helping others.
Northam transitioned to the martyr section of his speech:
“Today I am not ready to ask Virginians to grant me their forgiveness for my past actions. I also do not fully expect that they will immediately believe my account of these events. Right now I am simply asking for the opportunity to demonstrate, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the person I was is not the man I am today. I am asking for the opportunity to earn your forgiveness. If I were to listen to the voices calling on me to resign from office today, I could spare myself the difficult path that lies ahead. I could avoid an honest conversation about harmful actions from my past. I could not in good conscience choose the path that would be easier for me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile.”