Ralph Northam: ‘I Don’t Know’ Why Friends Called Me ‘Coonman’

Alex Edelman/Getty Images
Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam said on Saturday that he was not sure why friends called him “coonman” in college.

Northam became inflamed in controversy on Friday after a medical school yearbook photo emerged showing two individuals in blackface and Ku Klux Klan (KKK) attire on his page. Northam took responsibility for the controversial photo but said on Saturday that he believes that he does not appear in the picture and does not have any plans to resign.

CBS News uncovered a page from Northam’s yearbook at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) that had nicknames under his name, which includes “Coonman,” a racial slur.

During the press conference, Northam said that many friends often called him “Goose” due to his changing voice; however, he does not know why some college friends called him “Coonman.”

“I don’t know what their intent was with that,” Northam said during the press conference.

Northam said that he never wore a KKK robe, nor has he ever been a member of the KKK.

Northam did admit to darkening his face with shoe polish for a dance contest in the 1980s.

“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… It is because my memory of that episode is so vivid that I truly do not believe I am in the picture in my yearbook,” Northam said.

One reporter during the press conference even asked him if he can moonwalk, to which his wife dismissed the idea and said that the instance served as an inappropriate circumstance to show off his dance moves.

Northam said that he will continue to wade through the controversy and suggested that it might help spark a national conversation over racism in America.

“If I were to listen to the voices calling on me to resign my office today, I could spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead. I could avoid an honest conversation about harmful actions from my past,” said Northam. 

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