Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam apologized Friday after a page from his medical school yearbook emerged showing two men, one in blackface and the other dressed in Ku Klux Klan garb. A conservative website that published the photo claimed, and Northam later confirmed, that one of the men in the photo was him.
“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive,” Northam said in a statement emailed to the press Friday evening.
“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.”
The photo sits alongside several photos of Northam and the caption on the half-page devoted to him lists his alma mater, the Virginia Military Institute. Northam did not say in his statement if he was the man in blackface or the one in KKK garb.
The yearbook page was first reported by the conservative outlet Big League Politics, the Virginian-Pilot reported on Friday. The paper later obtained the 1984 yearbook from the Eastern Virginia Medical School and confirmed that the yearbook page exists.
YEARBOOK: Ralph Northam In Blackface Photo https://t.co/ILATl6iZwR
— Big League Politics (@bigleaguepol) February 1, 2019
The chair of the Virginia Republican Party Jack Wilson called for Northam to resign if he was one of the two men in the photo.
“Racism has no place in Virginia,” Wilson said in a statement. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”
“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,” Northam said in his statement. “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,” he continued. “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.”
This post has been updated.