Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is refusing to resign after his medical school yearbook page emerged showing a photo of him alongside a photo of two people dressed up in blackface and a Ku Klux Klan costume.
“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive,” he said. “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.”
He apologized again to the citizens of his state on Twitter, saying he “can’t change the decisions he made or undue the harm he caused then and today. But I accept responsibility for my past actions, and I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust.”
But on Saturday, the governor started singing a different tune.
In a new statement, Northam said that, upon further reflection, he doesn’t believe he was one of the people pictured in the photo on his yearbook page. He did acknowledge blackening his face for a Michael Jackson costume after graduation, but says he has no recollection of being in the photo in his 1984 yearbook, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
He gave no explanation of why that particular photo was on his yearbook page, though. His new denial did little to pacify people in his own party, many of whom were demanding that he resign.
In fact, it made things worse.
The Virginia Black Caucus said on Saturday, "Yesterday we met with the Governor, looked him in the eye and expressed our deep sense of betrayal, pain, and disappointment. Changing his public story today now casts further doubt on his ability to regain that trust."
Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, an African-American man, condemned Northan’s actions and made it sound like he was ready to take the helm as governor, adding that “we need leaders with the ability to unite and help us rise to the better angels of our nature."
The NAACP has already called for Northam’s resignation, as has Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, and Kirsten Gillibrand.
But as of Saturday afternoon, Northam has made no plans to step down.
According to Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas, she said the governor told her, “I’m not going to resign because it’s not me in that photo.”
She added that Northam is “losing even more credibility” by waiting so long to deny that he was in the photo after admitting that he was in the photo.
Earlier in the week, Northam upset countless people on the other side of the political aisle by defending Democrat lawmakers’ plans to let unwanted babies that have already been born be left alone to die.