Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam contends that’s not him in the 1984 yearbook photo, but he does remember dressing in blackface around that time.
Seemingly trying to head off the discovery of further evidence that he’s a racist, Northam held a press conference on Saturday to admit that he did in fact dress in blackface during a San Antonio dance competition.
“I recognize that many people will find this difficult to believe. The photo appears with others I submitted on a page with my name on it,” Northam told reporters.
“Even in my own statement yesterday, I conceded that based on the evidence presented to me at the time. The most likely explanation that it was indeed me in the photo. In the hours since I made my statement yesterday, I reflected with my family and classmates from the time and affirmed my conclusion that I am not the person in that photo,” he said.
“Why I did not appear in this photo, I am not surprised by its appearance in the EVMS yearbook. In the place and time I grew up, many actions that we rightfully recognize as abhorrent today were commonplace,” Northam said.
“I believe that I did not wear that costume or attend that party stems in part from my clear memory of other mistakes I made in this same period of my life,” he said.
“That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume. I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that,” Northam said.
He rationalizes because he remembers that, but not the yearbook photo, it must not be him.
Yesterday, Northam released a statement, according to WRIC, saying he was sorry:
“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.
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.
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. 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. 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.”
Northam didn’t indicate if he was posing as the Klansman or in blackface.
But further digging by Twitter user Amber Athey may yield a clue, as Northam’s nickname was apparently “Coonman” in the Virginia Military Institute 1981 yearbook:
Ralph Northam's senior yearbook at VMI says one of his nicknames was "Coonman." I don't dare speculate as to what that means.
— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) February 1, 2019
Here’s a zoomed in version, courtesy of Archive.org:
The nickname could be a slur against blacks.