Former Vice President Joe Biden, a possible 2020 presidential contender, joined a bipartisan chorus of calls for embattled Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) to resign after a photo emerged Friday of him and another man wearing blackface and Ku Klux Klan attire.
“There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now,” Biden said in a statement shared to Twitter Saturday:
There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 2, 2019
In a photo first reported by Big League Politics and later obtained by the Virginian-Pilot, Northam’s 1984 yearbook features Northam and another man in blackface, a bowtie, plaid pants and KKK attire. According to a Virginia Democrat in contact with Northam, the embattled governor now believes he does not appear in the photo — a shocking reversal — after admitting in his Friday evening apology that he was, indeed, in the photo. He would not reveal which attire he wore.
In his first apology, Northam acknowledged the clothing he had on was “clearly racist and offensive” and said in his follow-up apology that he was “deeply sorry” yet fully committed to staying on as the state’s chief executive.
“I accept responsibility for my past actions and I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust,” said Northam.
Biden joins Democrat presidential candidates, including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), in demanding Northam resign. “Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together,” said Harris.
Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-VA) issued their own statements on the matter, condemning Northam for appearing in the “racist” and “deeply offensive” photo. The top Virginia lawmakers did ask for Northam to step down. “The racist photo of Governor Northam’s 1984 yearbook is horrible. This causes pain in a state and a country where centuries of racism have already left an open wound,” Kaine said. “I hope the Governor–whose career as an Army officer, pediatrician and public official has always manifested a commitment to justice and equality for all–now takes the time to listen to those he has hurt and reflect on how to move forward.”
Warner, calling the unearthed photo “shocking and deeply offensive,” said it reopened wounds from Virginia’s “long and painful history of racism and violence toward African-Americans.”
“The Governor must now listen to the people and communities he has hurt, and carefully consider what comes next,” his statement concluded.
Northam is expected to address the matter in a press conference scheduled for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. local time.