Report: Ralph Northam’s Abortion Comments Prompted Classmate to Reveal Racist Photo

RICHMOND, VA - FEBRUARY 02: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam speaks with reporters at a press conference at the Governor's mansion on February 2, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. Northam denies allegations that he is pictured in a yearbook photo wearing racist attire. (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images)
Alex Edelman/Getty Images
JOSHUA CAPLAN

A former classmate of Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) is believed to have tipped off the press about his racist yearbook photo in response to the embattled Virginia Democrat’s extreme remarks about proposed legislation that would allow fourth-trimester abortions, according to a report.

The controversy surrounding the bill began with a push from Virginia Democrats to lift restrictions on late-term abortions. In a video that went viral last week, Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran acknowledged that her proposed bill would allow abortions up until moments before birth.

During a Wednesday interview with WTOP-FM, the Virginia governor called the blowback over the bill that would allow abortions — even while the mother is dilating — “really blown out of proportion.”

“When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physician—more than one physician, by the way—and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities,” he said. “There may be a fetus that’s non-viable.”

Asked in a press conference on Thursday if his remarks hurt the bill’s chances of becoming law, Northam replied, “I don’t have any regrets.”

Northam’s response to the controversy, according to the Washington Post, angered at least one of his former classmates, prompting them to alert Big League Politics’ editor-in-chief Patrick Howley of a photo in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook showing him and another individual in blackface and Ku Klux Klan attire.

Howley’s website was first to report on the photo Friday afternoon, which was later confirmed by the Virginian-Pilot and the Post.  “A concerned citizen, not a political opponent, came to us and pointed this out. I was very offended [by the photo] because I don’t like racism,” Howley said in an interview with the Post.

The Post reports:

The tip came after Northam’s comments on Wednesday about late-term abortions, he said. Howley declined to give any further information about his source, citing a confidentiality agreement. But he said it took him just a few hours to confirm that the photo was authentic.

The source of the tip appears to have been a medical school classmate or classmates of Northam who acted as a direct result of the abortion controversy that erupted earlier in the week, according to two people at Big League Politics, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

“The revelations about Ralph Northam’s racist past were absolutely driven by his medical school classmate’s anger over his recent very public support for infanticide,” one of the two said.

The photo’s emergence sparked a wave of resignation calls from leading Democrats and Republicans and not one, but two separate apologies from Northam, which were later walked back in a surreal news conference Saturday.

“This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service,” the embattled lawmaker said in his Friday evening apology. “I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.”

The following day, Northam claimed the racist photo was merely one big misunderstanding.

“Yesterday, I took responsibility for content that appeared on my page in the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook that was clearly racist and offensive,” the state’s chief executive said. “I am not and will not excuse the content of the photo. It was offensive, racist, and despicable.

“I stand by my statement of apology to the many Virginians who were hurt by seeing the content on a yearbook page that belongs to me,” he continued. “It is disgusting, it is offensive, it is racist, and it was my responsibility to recognize and prevent it from being published in the first place.”

Following the press conference, it was clear his attempt to extinguish the controversy had actually further exasperated his political-allies-turned-detractors. On Friday evening, some of Virginia’s leading lawmakers condemned the photo, yet stopped short of calling on Northam to exit his post.

That changed after the presser.

“After we watched his press conference today, we called Governor Northam to tell him that we no longer believe he can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia and that he must resign,” Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) wrote in a joint statement with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA).

Meanwhile, Northam reportedly intends to fight to remain governor and held an emergency meeting with top aides Sunday evening to discuss the best path forward.

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