Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) told staff on Friday that he definitely won’t resign after previously leaving the door open to stepping aside, a source familiar with the meeting tells TPM.
Northam told staff at a meeting that he won’t leave the governor’s office and plans to serve out the next three years of his term in spite of an ongoing scandal over his use of blackface in the 1980s.
The meeting comes after he huddled with top staff and a crisis communications counselor Thursday night to map out a plan to stay in office, according to two sources. That meeting included a rough plan to renew focus on racial reconciliation for the rest of his term. At that meeting was Jarvis Stewart, a top crisis communications specialist and Capitol Hill veteran.
Last Friday, a conservative website published a picture of Northam’s medical school yearbook, which included a picture of one man in blackface and a second in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. Northam immediately apologized for the photo, but the next day said he wasn’t in the picture — even as he admitted he’d used blackface on a separate occasion to dress as Michael Jackson. The governor said at that event that he would not resign unless he decided he wouldn’t be able to govern effectively.
National and local Democrats spent the next days demanding that Northam resign, attempting to pressure him out of office. But that grew significantly more complicated in the next days, as a woman came forward to accuse Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of sexual assault. A second woman stepped forward on Friday to accuse him of raping her, just minutes after the news broke of Northam’s decision. Fairfax has denied both claims.
The next in line to become governor if both Northam and Fairfax were to step down, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D), admitted that he also wore blackface when he was in college in the early 1980s.
This story was updated at 5:00 p.m.