McAuliffe Defended Northam’s Blackface Photo as ‘Dumb Mistake’ Months After Publicly Condemning it as ‘Racist, Inexcusable’

Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam, right, celebrates his election victory with Virginia Go
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe dismissed Governor Ralph Northam’s racist blackface yearbook photos as “a dumb mistake 40 years ago,” after publicly condemning them as “racist, unacceptable, and inexcusable at any age.”

In an interview with the members-only social group Hudson Union Society, McAuliffe came to Northam’s defense when asked about the governor’s yearbook photos, which depict him in blackface posing next to someone wearing a Klu Klux Klan robe.

“Listen, even if it had been him in the blackface. You know,” shrugged McAuliffe. “It was a dumb mistake 40 years ago.” McAuliffe then went on to talk about how growing up in New York, he “didn’t know what blackface was.”

“I had not experienced, we had no racism issues, honestly, growing up in Syracuse,” he added.

Northam served as McAuliffe’s lieutenant governor from 2014 to 2018 and endorsed McAuliffe’s candidacy this past spring.

McAuliffe also denied Northam being in the photo entirely. “He didn’t do Klu Klux Klan in fairness,” McAuliffe said. “But that wasn’t him either. It’s now come out he wasn’t either one of them.”

This July 2019 interview with McAuliffe happened five months after McAuliffe, and other prominent Democrat politicians, called on Northam to resign in February 2019 after Northam’s racist yearbook photos were unveiled.

Northam initially apologized for the photo, then recanted his apology, insisting that neither man in the picture was him.

McAuliffe campaign spokesperson Christina Freundlich told CNN, “Terry has always been clear that what happened in that photo was wrong.”

Northam campaigned together with McAuliffe on Thursday as the race between McAuliffe and Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin is closer than expected. A recent Monmouth University poll shows both candidates have 46 percent support among registered voters.


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