VA Gov. Ralph Northam Refuses to Resign Amid Criticism After Racist Photo Surfaced

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam does not intend to resign despite calls for him to leave his position after a racist photo surfaced from his medical school yearbook.

The photo, which has prompted mounting demands for Northam’s resignation, was released Friday and shows one man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another in black face. The photo was on Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page.  

image via Eastern Virginia Medical School

A source close to the governor told ABC News that Northam will not resign, “period.”

“He will serve out his term,” the source said.

In a statement Saturday, the Democratic Party of Virginia called on Northam to resign and for Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to take the governor’s position.

“We made the decision to let Governor Northam do the correct thing and resign this morning - we have gotten word he will not do so this morning. We stand with Democrats across Virginia and the country calling him to immediately resign. He no longer has our confidence or our support. Governor Northam must end this chapter immediately, step down, and let Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax heal Virginia's wounds and move us forward. We can think of no better person than Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to do so,” the statement said.

Other politicians have called on Northam to resign, including current Democratic presidential candidates, The Washington Post reports.

“Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said. “The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.”

“These images arouse centuries of anger, anguish, and racist violence and they’ve eroded all confidence in Gov. Northam’s ability to lead. We should expect more from our elected officials. He should resign,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said.

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro also called on Northam to leave office.

On Saturday, former Vice President Joe Biden, who had campaigned for Northam in 2017, joined the list of prominent Democrats calling for Northam’s resignation.

“There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now,” Biden tweeted.

But on Friday, Northam suggested that he was one of the men in the photo and apologized for it, The Huffington Post reports.

“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,” Northam said in his statement. “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,” Northam added.

In his statement, however, Northam did not say that he would resign.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Northam says he does not have any recollection of taking the photo and does not believe that he is one of the men in the photo. The Times went on to report that the governor is reaching out to his former classmates to identify who was in the photo.

The Democratic Caucus in the Virginia House of Representatives and the Virginia Senate have called on Northam to resign. Democrats from the Virginia House of Representatives released a statement, which concludes, “Though it brings us no joy to do so, we must call for Governor Northam’s resignation.”