The yearbook page for Gov. Ralph Northam (D) from his time at Eastern Virginia Medical School features a photo of a man wearing blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit standing side by side.
The photo, first published by Big League Politics, is from the school’s 1984 yearbook. A spokesperson for EVMS confirmed the photo’s authenticity to HuffPost, and clarified that it came from a “student-produced publication.”
The page features the governor’s full name with photos of him. But off to the side of the page is a photo of two unnamed men dressed in the racist garb. A quote from a Willie Nelson song apparently submitted by Northam says: “There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.”
In a statement, Northam did not specify whether he was the man in blackface or in the KKK outfit but said he was “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.”
He later issued an apology video indicating that he intends to serve out the rest of his term.
“I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust,” he said.
Later Friday, CBS News found that his 1981 yearbook at the Virginia Military Institute lists one of his nicknames as “Coonman.” “Coon” is often used as a slur for black people.
“Racism has no place in Virginia,” Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Jack Wilson said in a statement. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”
But State Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) defended the governor, The Washington Post reported.
“His whole life has been about exactly the opposite, and that’s what you need to examine, not something that occurred 30 years ago, Saslaw told the publication. “While it’s in very poor taste, I would think no one in the General Assembly ... 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.”
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement after Northam’s apology saying they are “still processing” the “disgusting, reprehensible, and offensive” image.
“These pictures rip off the scabs of an excruciatingly painful history and are a piercing reminder of this nation’s sins,” the statement continued.
This article has been updated with a statement from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.