Was Virginia's Governor in That Racist Yearbook Photo? School Probe Inconclusive
By Kate Feldman
After a months-long investigation, Eastern Virginia Medical School says it can't "conclusively determine" whether or not Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was one of the two men -- one wearing blackface and the other wearing a KKK robe -- who appeared in a racist yearbook photo.
"The Governor himself has made inconsistent public statements in this regard. No individual that we interviewed has told us from personal knowledge that the Governor is in the Photograph, and no individual with knowledge has come forward to us to report that the Governor is in the Photograph," the school said in a lengthy report released Wednesday morning.
The school also insisted it was unclear how the photo even appeared in the yearbook, but said it found no evidence it was a mistake or a prank.
In a statement, Northam said he "cooperated" with the investigation and insisted that he was not in the photo.
"That being said, I know and understand the events of early February and my response to them have caused hurt for many Virginians and for that, I am sorry. I felt it was important to take accountability for the photo's presence on my page, but rather than providing clarity, I instead deepened page and confusion," he said.
"In visits with local leaders across the Commonwealth, I have engaged in frank and necessary dialogue on how I can best utilize the power of the governor's office to enact meaningful progress on issues of equity and better focus our administration's efforts for the remainder of my term. That conversation will continue, with ensuing action, and I am committed to working to build a better and more equitable Virginia for all who call it home."
The photo, from the 1984 yearbook, was made public in early February. Northam initially confirmed that he was pictured and apologized for "the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now."
A day later, he retracted his admission and said he wasn't in the photo, but admitted to a different instance of blackface, in which he used shoe polish to look like Michael Jackson for a dance contest.
"Yesterday I took responsibility for content that appeared on my page that was clearly racist and offensive. I will not excuse the content of the photo. It was offensive, racist and despicable. I was seeing it for the first time. I was unaware of what was on my page. I was appalled that they appeared on my page," Northam said at a press conference on Feb. 2.
"I believe now I am not either of the people in that photo. It is disgusting, offensive, racist."
Northam has repeatedly refused calls to resign amid similar scandals that swept the Virginia statehouse.
Two women have accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, which he has denied, while Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface in college. Both have also refused to resign.
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