RICHMOND, VA — Gov. Ralph Northam once again said he will not resign amid outcry over a photo in his yearbook that shows one person in blackface and a second in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Northam, a Democrat, talked to “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King in Richmond. He said it has been “a difficult week” and stressed that while his state has come a long way over the last 400 years, it still has a long way to go.
“I really think this week raised a level of awareness in the commonwealth and in this country that we haven’t seen, certainly in my lifetime,” he said.
When asked why Northam, who was elected in November 2017, deserves to keep his job, he said he’s a leader who had a very successful first year in office.
“I’ve been in some very difficult situations. Life and death situations. Taken care of sick children. Right now Virginia needs someone who can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor,” said Northam.
The state needs someone who is strong, empathetic and courageous, the governor added. This person should also have a strong moral compass.
“That’s why I am not going anywhere. I have learned from this. I have a lot more to learn,” he said.
Northam said he’s heard calls for his resignation and even considered it, but noted he believes he’s the right person to help take the state “to the next level.”
“We have a number of inequities in this country right now and in Virginia,” said Northam. “And we’re in a position to stop talking so much and now to take action with policy to address a lot of these inequities.”
Northam initially apologized in a statement and then in a video after the photo was publicized. He also acknowledged he was in the picture. But the following day he walked back that admission and said he was “definitely not” in the yearbook.
When asked about his feelings about Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who has been accused of sexual assault by two women, Northam said “we need to get to the truth.”
“The truth is important,” he said. He added: “If these accusations are determined to be true, I don’t think he’s going to have any other option but to step down.”
Northam said he supports an investigation but didn’t go so far as to call for Fairfax’s resignation. Fairfax, it should be noted, didn’t call for Northam’s resignation, either.
King also pressed Northam about his views on state Attorney General Mark Herring, who acknowledged he too had once worn blackface.
“I don’t know what the attorney general was thinking, what his perception was of race, of the use of blackface. But I can tell you that just like me, he has grown. He has served Virginia well. He and I and Justin — all three of us — have fought for equality. And so, again, I regret that our attorney general is in this position but that’s a decision he’s going to need to make.”
Photo credit: Alex Edelman/Getty Images
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