By Jon Dougherty, editor-in-chief
The head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) predicted Sunday that embattled Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam won’t politically survive the scandal surrounding the appearance of a racist photo in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.
When he was asked during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” if Northam has a way to “survive,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said, “I don’t.”
Northam continued to take heat Saturday for a racist photo in his medical school yearbook from 1984 depicting one person in blackface and another in full KKK hood and robe. After initially apologizing for the radically offensive photo Friday, which intimated that he was one of the two people in the picture, less than 24 hours later he backtracked and claimed he didn’t think he was one of the two people depicted in the photo.
“When I was confronted with the images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page but I believe then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo,” he said.
Later he added, “When my staff showed me the photo in question yesterday, I was seeing it for the first time I did not purchase the EVMS yearbook and I was unaware of what was on my page.”
So far, Northam has refused to resign despite the fact that a growing number of Democrats have called for him to do so, including the NAACP’s Johnson, who has also taken issue with Northam for waiting to address the photo for so long.
“He finished medical school, received a yearbook with a racist picture on his page in the yearbook, and he has said nothing about it,” Johnson said.
“He acknowledged that that was apart of something that was taking place during that period of time and whether he actively participated or passively was present, he not one time up until this point acknowledged that this took place, objected to that behavior, or stated that, you know, ‘I had a different upbringing and I was a part of a Southern culture that embraced this racist, vile behavior, and I’m a changed man now and, as a result of that, I denounce that activity, I denounce my participation, and we’re going to move forward with public policy to remedy some of these issues,” Johnson added.
The civil rights leader also noted it “absolutely” would have made a difference if Northam had come out during his 2017 campaign and addressed this part of his past.
It’s unlikely Northam’s excuse that he either wasn’t aware of the photo or doesn’t believe he is in it holds water.
Conservative activist, pundit, author, and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino said Friday in a tweet that he had been sent the picture last year but that he didn’t do anything with it.
“I was sent the disgusting photo of Northam in Oct, 2018. I was not able to independently verify that the photo was of Northam therefore I did not publish the story. But, this indicates that the photo was probably known about by others who may have squashed it for political reasons,” he wrote.
I was sent the disgusting photo of Northam in Oct, 2018. I was not able to independently verify that the photo was of Northam therefore I did not publish the story. But,this indicates that the photo was probably known about by others who may have squashed it for political reasons
— Dan Bongino (@dbongino) February 2, 2019
Also, The Washington Post, in a snippet buried deep in a Friday story reporting on Northam’s burgeoning scandal, noted that the yearbook staff at the university left it up to students to select the photos for their own page:
Joan Naidorf, whose husband’s yearbook page is opposite Northam’s in the yearbook, said she was surprised the photos are only now coming out, given Northam’s stature in Virginia politics.
“We’ve often wondered over the last 10 years or so why someone didn’t dig this up sooner,” said Naidorf, a nonpracticing emergency room physician who lives in Alexandria.
She said that when she first saw the photo, shortly after the yearbook was published, “I thought: ‘That’s awful.’ I assumed it was something at a drunken frat party.”
She said she didn’t know when or where the photos were taken. Her husband, Tobin, wasn’t available Friday. He met Northam a few times when they worked medical rotations together but weren’t friends, Joan Naidorf said.
Eastern Virginia Medical School allowed students to pick their own photos for their yearbook page, Naidorf said. Her husband chose their engagement photo and other personal pictures. Another student chose a picture of men in blackface and dressed as women in what appears to be a variety-show routine.
Northam has since admitted to donning blackface to participate in a Michael Jackson dance contest.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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