UPDATE By Linda Cicoira — Republican Party leaders from the Eastern Shore are among those who have called for the resignation of Gov. Ralph Northam after a medical school yearbook photo surfaced Friday that Northam admitted was “racist and offensive.”
Accomack Republican Party Chairman Brian Langley and Northampton Republican Chairman Rob Stubbs said they want Northam to resign and called on Shore leaders in the Democratic Party to do the same.
“We call on the governor to take the appropriate steps and resign. He has now released a statement that has admitted his mistakes and should do the right thing and resign as governor. Hearing his words yesterday about infanticide and then seeing the pictures and nicknames from his past that has recently surfaced today as reported in national media, he is not who he has tried to portray himself to be, nor is he who the Eastern Shore wants representing us … racism and discrimination have no place in our society.”
The photograph in question was in a 1984 medical school yearbook. It showed two people — one was in blackface makeup and the other was wearing the traditional hood and robe of the hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. It was unclear which person in the photo was the then med student. The bottom half of the yearbook page was titled, “Ralph Shearer Northam.”
“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,” Northam said Friday. “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service,” he continued. “But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their governor.”
Leaders from the Virginia Education Association also called for Northam to step down. Jim Livingston, president of that group, and James Fedderman, VEA vice president and an Eastern Shore native, joined Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association in calling for Northam’s resignation Saturday.
“There is no place for Gov. Ralph Northam’s racist actions. Both NEA and VEA strongly condemn them. This goes beyond political affiliation. We must set a better example for our students. The public must have trust and confidence that their elected officials will fight for them, and that trust has been irreparably damaged. Ralph Northam should resign.”
The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus also called for Northam to resign. “After seeing the yearbook pictures that surfaced of Gov. Northam today, we were shocked, saddened and offended. Virginia has a complicated racial history and past, and those pictures certainly reflect that. Blackface was used to ridicule African Americans and the Klan was a source of terror and intimidation. The racism engendered by these images was real then and resurrected by these images today. We are beyond disappointed. The Ralph Northam we know is a pediatric neurologist, a dedicated public servant, and a committed husband and father. Nevertheless, it is with heavy hearts that we have respectfully asked him to step down.”
Progress Virginia, which describes itself as “a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization that combines cutting edge online organizing and communications with rapid and hard-hitting earned media strategies,” also wants Northam to resign. Executive director Anna Scholl, of Progress Virginia, said, “This photo is racist, plain and simple. There is no excuse. It is an indelible reminder that racism is not a relic of the past but deeply embedded in our society. It’s easy to criticize our opponents. It’s much harder to condemn our friends. Today we forcefully, unequivocally condemn this blatant display of racism and will continue to speak out against acts of bigotry in our community.”
The NAACP also called for his resignation. “No matter the party affiliation, we cannot stand for such behavior.”
Susan Swecker, chair of the state Democratic Party, has also spoken out against Northam and was quoted saying, ”We made the decision to let Gov. Northam do the correct thing and resign this morning. We have gotten word he will not do so … he no longer has our confidence or our support. Gov. Northam must end this chapter immediately, step down, and let Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax heal Virginia’s wounds and move us forward.”