Everyone from top Democratic 2020 presidential candidates to the NAACP is calling for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to resign after he admitted to appearing in a photo that showed one man in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan attire.
Northam is insisting he’ll be able to weather the political storm, issuing a statement Friday apologizing for appearing in a “clearly racist and offensive” costume. The first-term Democratic governor pledged in a video posted on Twitter to keep fighting to improve Virginia “through the remainder of my term.”
That may not be up to him. As Northam’s predecessor and friend Terry McAuliffe (D) put it in a statement Friday, the current situation is “untenable,” with Northam’s own caucus is saying he can no longer be trusted to hold the state’s top office.
The Virginian Pilot confirmed the legitimacy of the photo from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook, which first circulated on far-right site Big League Politics. Northam has still not said which of the two costumes he was wearing.
As the photo bounced around the internet Friday, both local and national politicians rushed to denounce Northam.
After meeting with the governor Friday, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said “he can no longer effectively serve as Governor. It is time for him to resign, so that Virginia can begin the process of healing.”
Virginia House and Senate Democrats also issued statements saying their caucuses could no longer support Northam.
Democratic U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine stopped short of calling for Northam’s resignation, but called the photo shocking and said it was time for the governor to consider his options.
Calls for resignation came loud and clear from a number of 2020 presidential candidates, who said Northam’s apology was insufficient. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said the “stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government,” while Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said Americans “should expect more from our elected officials.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) echoed those statements, calling the photo “deeply disturbing” and disqualifying for an elected official,
“It doesn’t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat. This behavior was racist and unconscionable,” former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and 2020 contender Julian Castro tweeted. “Governor Northam should resign.”
The NAACP agreed that party affiliation did not matter, with President Derrick Johnson releasing a statement saying “black face in any manner is always racist and never okay.”
If Northam steps down, 39-year-old black lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax would assume the governorship.