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Virginia's Gov. Resists Calls To Resign After Racist Photo Surfaces

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is resisting calls to resign after a racist yearbook photo surfaced.
Posted at 4:08 PM, Feb 02, 2019

Virginia's governor is facing widespread calls to resign after what he called a "clearly racist and offensive" photo from his medical school yearbook became public.

The photo — originally released by conservative website "Big League Politics" — shows a person who appears to be in blackface next to a person in a Ku Klux Klan costume. The photo is on a page devoted to now-Gov. Ralph Northam in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.

Northam had previously confirmed that he was in the photo and apologized for it but walked that statement back in a press conference on Saturday. 

"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 the first time he'd even seen the photo was when he was shown the yearbook page on Friday. The Democratic governor also pushed back against calls for his resignation. 

Soon after the first image was released, something else surfaced. In Northam's 1981 Virginia Military Institute yearbook, under his photo and name, there's a list of his nicknames — "Goose" and "Coonman." Coonman can be interpreted as a racial slur. In Saturday's press conference, Northam said he didn't know the motives behind the nickname but regrets it. 

Still, the Democratic governor is facing calls to step down from some groups, including Virginia politicians, several Democratic presidential hopefuls and the NAACP. 

Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP, tweeted: "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 @RalphNortham."

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN