A page dedicated to Virginia governor Ralph Northam in his medical-school yearbook shows two men, one of whom is presumably Northam, posing in blackface and a Ku Klux Klan uniform.
The photo, the existence of which was first reported by the conservative news website Big League Politics and has since been verified by National Review, appears on Northam’s page in the Eastern Virginia Medical School class of 1984 yearbook. The page also features three other photos of Northam accompanied by the quotation, “There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.”
Northam, who also attended the Virginia Military Institute, worked as a pediatric neurologist before being elected to the Virginia state senate in 2007. He defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie in November, running on his health-care background and time serving in the military as an Army doctor in the Gulf War.
A native of Virginia, Northam was quick to condemn the racial violence that rocked Charlottesville in August 2017, and subsequently called for the removal of all confederate statues in the state.
The yearbook photos emerged just days after Florida secretary of state Michael Ertel resigned when photos of him dressed in blackface for a “Hurricane Katrina survivor” Halloween costume surfaced.
Northam drew the condemnation of conservative lawmakers this week after he appeared to defend the practice of refusing to provide life-saving care to born-alive infants during a radio interview.
“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” Northam said during an interview on WTOP radio Wednesday.
Asked if he regretted the comments during a Thursday press conference, Northam defended his position.
“I’m a physician. I’m also the governor. But when I’m asked questions, a lot of times it is put in the context of being a physician — realizing how we approach, how we manage patients, how we offer advice and counseling,” he told reporters. “So, no, I don’t have any regrets.”
Update 5:11p.m.: Virginia state senate minority leader Richard Saslaw (D., Fairfax) defended Northam in comments to the Washington Post.
“His whole life has been about exactly the opposite and that’s what you need to examine, not something that occurred 30 years ago,” he said “While it’s in very poor taste, I would think there is problem no one in the General Assembly who would like their college conduct examined. I would hate to have to go back and examine my two years in the Army. trust me. I was 18 years old and I was a handful, OK? His life since then has been anything but. It’s been a life of helping people, and many times for free.”
Update 6:19p.m.: In a statement released Friday evening, Northam apologized and admitted that he did in fact appear in the photo:
Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive. 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.
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. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.
I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.