House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Saturday condemned a racist yearbook photo featuring Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) and another individual but stopped short of demanding the embattled Virginia Democrat’s resignation.
“The photo is racist and contrary to fundamental American values,” Pelosi said in a statement shared to Twitter. “I join my colleagues in Virginia calling on Governor Northam to do the right thing so that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia can heal and move forward”:
The photo is racist and contrary to fundamental American values. I join my colleagues in Virginia calling on Governor Northam to do the right thing so that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia can heal and move forward.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 2, 2019
Northam faces a tsunami of calls from both Democrats and Republicans to leave his post after the photo, first reported by Big League Politics on Friday and later obtained by the Virginian-Pilot, featuring Northam and another person wearing blackface and KKK attire. Despite admitting he is in the photo and issuing an apology, reports indict that the embattled lawmaker now says he does not believe he is in the photo and has no immediate plans to resign.
In his first of two apologies Friday evening, Northam confirmed he appeared in a racist yearbook photo and said he was “deeply sorry” for the pain it caused; however, he did not reveal which of the two in the photo he is.
“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.”
In Northam’s second apology, a video shared to his official Twitter account, he again made no mention of resigning, instead pledging to regain the trust of Virginians and lawmakers.
“I am committed to continuing that fight for the remainder of my term,” he affirmed.
The lukewarm, and seemingly tone-deaf, apologies only intensified calls for him to resign.
The Virginia House and Senate Democrat Caucuses and the state’s Legislative Black Caucus called on Northam to exit his post, as well as several leading left-wing advocacy groups, including MoveOn.org and the Latino Victory Fund.
Following an emergency caucus meeting, Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus leadership said that while the group supports Northam’s agenda, it could no longer support him as governor. “[G]iven what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as governor,” the lawmakers said, adding that “it is time for him to resign so that Virginia can begin the process of healing.”
A handful of Democrat presidential candidates, including top contenders Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), also issued calls for Northam’s resignation. “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,” Harris wrote in a statement shared to Twitter.
In his resignation call, Booker said Northam has arisen “centuries of anger, anguish, and racist violence” that “eroded all confidence in Gov. Northam’s ability to lead.”
“We should expect more from our elected officials. He should resign,” he concluded.
Northam, a 59-year-old Army veteran, was elected the governor of Virginia in 2017.