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Democrats and Republicans call on Northam to resign over racist yearbook photo

Ralph Northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo: Larry French via Getty Images for SiriusXM

Virginia's Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam admitted Friday to appearing in a 1984 yearbook photo that depicts two people wearing blackface and Ku Klux Klan attire, prompting outrage from elected officials and organizations across the political spectrum.

Driving the news: In a statement, Northam apologized for his offensive actions and the harm he has caused, but did not offer to resign. He later posted a video on Twitter again apologizing for his actions, and signaled that he would do everything to regain his constituents' trust through the remainder of his term.

What they're saying:

  • Virginia House Democrats: “We are so deeply saddened by the news that has been revealed today. We are having trouble reconciling our experience with Governor Northam with what we see in the photo. The Governor Northam we know is a great friend and ally, who has served and dedicated himself to our Commonwealth and the nation. However, constituents’ trust in their elected officials is paramount. We regret to say that we are no longer confident in the Governor’s representation of Virginians. Though it brings us no joy to do so, we must call for Governor Northam’s resignation.”
  • Virginia Legislative Black Caucus: "We are still processing what we have seen about the Governor but unequivocally say that what has been revealed is disgusting, reprehensible, and offensive. We feel complete betrayal. The legacy of slavery, racism, and Jim Crow has been an albatross around the necks of African Americans for over 400 years. These pictures rip off the scabs of an excruciatingly painful history and are a piercing reminder of this nation's sins. Those who would excuse the pictures are just as culpable."
  • Virginia Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw (D): "His whole life has been about exactly the opposite and that’s what you need to examine, not something that occurred 30 years ago. While it’s in very poor taste, I would think no one in the General Assembly who would like their college conduct examined. I would hate to have to go back and examine my two years in the Army. Trust me. I was 18 years old and I was a handful, OK? His life since then has been anything but. It’s been a life of helping people, and many times for free."
  • Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman (R): "As a Virginian & Rep. of Charlottesville, Gov. Northam's yearbook photos hit more than a nerve. This Virginian demands an explanation. Now. Issues of racial discrimination cannot be taken lightly & this type of behavior is dangerous & unacceptable in any form."
  • Guy Cecil, chair of Democratic super PAC Priorities USA: "I believe in personal forgiveness & public repentance. That is not the same as deserving the confidence bestowed in our elected officials. The picture was horrifying and deserves a clear response. Ralph Northam should resign.
  • Progressive advocacy group MoveOn: "If Ralph Northam is one of the two people pictured in the highly disturbing, horrific photo wearing either blackface or a KKK hood – or if he selected or approved of its use on his yearbook page — he should immediately resign. There are no excuses for such a racist display."
  • Liberal blog Daily Kos: "Northam's racist med school antics have no place anywhere in America. No apology is enough. Northam must resign immediately."
  • Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.): "On the first day of #BlackHistoryMonth, Northam should accept responsibility & resign paving the way for Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax to become the second African American governor in Virginia’s history. That is the type of restorative justice that our nation cries out for at this time."
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.): "Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together."
  • NAACP President Derrick Johnson: "Black face in any manner is always racist and never okay. No matter the party affiliation, we can not stand for such behavior, which is why the NAACP is calling for the resignation of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam."
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.): "These racist images are deeply disturbing. Hatred and discrimination have no place in our country and must not be tolerated, especially from our leaders – Republican or Democrat. Northam must resign."
  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.): "The racist photo from Governor Northam’s 1984 yearbook is horrible. This causes pain in a state and a country where centuries of racism have already left an open wound. I hope the Governor—whose career as an Army officer, pediatrician and public official has always manifested a commitment to justice and equality for all—now takes the time to listen to those he has hurt and reflect on how to move forward.”
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.): "This photo is shocking and deeply offensive, all the more so because of Virginia's long and painful history of racism and violence toward African Americans. The Governor must now listen to the people and communities he has hurt, and carefully consider what comes next next."
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