In a bizarre moment during Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D-VA) Saturday afternoon press conference on a racist yearbook photo, the embattled lawmaker’s wife ordered him not to perform the moonwalk after revealing he once wore blackface for a dance contest.
Northam (D-VA) said he darkened his face for a Michael Jackson costume in 1984 — the same year in which he acknowledged Friday evening to have appeared in a photo with another individual wearing blackface and a Ku Klux Klan outfit.
“My belief that I did not wear that costume or attend that party stems, in part, by my clear memory of other mistakes I made in the same period of my life,” Northam 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. 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,” he added.
During the question period, one reporter asked Northam if he could still moonwalk, prompting the governor to smile and look around the room for space to possible perform the dance move.
“Inappropriate circumstances,” Northam’s wife told the embattled lawmaker.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) February 2, 2019
At the start of the presser, Northam pledged to remain in his post despite a slew of calls from Democrats and Republicans for him to resign immediately. He claimed that he not only prematurely apologized for the racist photo which appeared in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical yearbook, but had not seen it until it surfaced Friday.
The website Big League Politics first reported on the photo, which was later obtained by the Virginia-Pilot.
On Friday, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the state House Democratic Caucus and the state Senate Democratic Caucus all demanded Northam step aside. along with several top progressive groups, including Moveon.org and the Latino Victory Fund.
“But given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as governor,” the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said. “It is time for him to resign, so that Virginia can begin the process of healing.”
Several Democratic presidential hopefuls and potential presidential candidates, including Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker former Vice President Joe Biden, also called on Northam to 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,” Harris wrote in a statement shared to Twitter.
“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.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) slammed Northam for the photo. However, she did not explicitly call on him to resign.
“The photo is racist and contrary to fundamental American values,” said Pelosi. “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.”