A troubling photo from Virginia Gov. (D) Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook has surfaced, showing a photo of two men, one in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, and a second in blackface. The image appears on the governor’s yearbook page from 1984, his graduating year.
The left side of Northam’s page includes a headshot of him in a suit, a photo of him in a cowboy hat and boots, and a third image of him sitting on the ground while leaning against a convertible. On the opposite page is a fourth photo that shows a man in a KKK uniform and a man in blackface. The exact identities of the two remain unknown.
Northam’s alma mater, Virginia Military Institute and his interest in pediatrics, are listed underneath that image, as well as the quote, “There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.”
Northam has since apologized and admitted to being one of the men in the racist photo though he did not specify which.
"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. "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 emerged after the governor was blasted for supporting a Virginian Democratic lawmaker’s bill that would ease restrictions on third-trimester abortions in the state. The conservative news outlet Big League Politics was the first to share the image on Friday, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
The Pilot shared a statement made by the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, Jack Wilson: “Racism has no place in Virginia. These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”
In another statement, four top Republican lawmakers—Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox, Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Ryan T. McDougle—said: “This is a deeply disturbing and offensive photograph in need of an immediate explanation by the governor.”
The Pilot reports that Northam—who’s a child neurologist—was asked about the abortion bill's relaxed limits on a radio show. Northam defended the bill, saying it was “blown out of proportion.”
“When we talk about third trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother with the consent of the physicians—more than one physician, by the way—and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that is nonviable,” he said.
He then explained what would happen if a nonviable fetus was born. “The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”