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J.B. Pritzker: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ‘must resign immediately’ over racist photo

Illinois governor is among a host of Dems asking Northam to step down.

By Jim Hagerty

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was among a host of Democrats who called on Ralph Northam to resign as governor of Virginia Saturday after a racially sensitive photo from Northam’s medical school yearbook surfaced.

“I agree must resign immediately,” Pritzker tweeted in response to an editorial by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Northam issued an apology Friday, admitting that he appeared in the photograph of a person in blackface next to someone in Ku Klux Klan regalia published on his page of in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.

“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,” he said said in Friday’s 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.”

The governor addressed media Saturday and said while he allowed publication of the photo, he was not one of the people in it.

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Democratic presidential hopefuls are getting their first major test on how they will address racial tensions that have polarized American life.

Nearly every major declared and potential Democratic candidate called for Northam’s resignation after the disclosure of the yearbook photo.

A prominent Democratic strategist, Symone Sanders, says candidates already face challenges explaining their own records on racially fraught matters and now must deal with the Northam issue.

5 p.m.

Virginia’s attorney general is calling for Gov. Ralph Northam to resign. Mark Herring said in a statement Saturday that it’s no longer possible for Northam to “lead our Commonwealth.”

Herring is the latest prominent Democrat to call for the Democratic governor to step down. Others calling for Northam’s resignation include the Virginia Democratic Party, the state House Democratic Caucus and many Democratic candidates for president.

Herring’s statement followed Northam’s press conference at which he denied being in a medical school yearbook photo that shows a person in blackface standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan costume.
Northam, however, admitted to wearing blackface as Michael Jackson at a dance contest.

4 p.m.

Northam has admitted to wearing blackface while dressing up like Michael Jackson at a dance contest around the time he was in medical school.

Northam made the admission Saturday at a press conference where he denied being in the picture. He said he once darkened his face with “a little bit” of shoe polish for his Michael Jackson costume at a 1984 San Antonio talent show.

Northam said he regrets that he didn’t understand “the harmful legacy of an action like that.”

A man who went to medical school with Ralph Northam says he also didn’t buy the class’s 1984 yearbook or see it until decades after it was published.

Walt Broadnax is one of two black students who graduated with Northam. He said by phone Saturday that students submitted photos for someone else to lay out.

Broadnax saw his yearbook page for the first time Saturday. He said it turned out how he intended with photos of family and a woman he was dating.

Broadnax defended Northam and said he’s not a racist. He said he believes Northam’s statement that he wasn’t in the photo of a man in blackface standing next to someone in a KKK costume.

He said the school never would have tolerated someone going to a party in blackface.

3:20 p.m.

Virginia’s lieutenant governor says the state needs leaders who can unite people and “help us rise to the better angels of our nature.”

If Northam were to resign, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would become the second African-American governor of Virginia.

In his statement issued Saturday, Fairfax doesn’t call for Northam to resign because of racist photos on Northam’s 1984 yearbook profile page.

But Fairfax does say that he “cannot condone actions from (the governor’s) past” that at least “suggest a comfort with Virginia’s darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping and intimidation.”

Northam said Saturday that he hadn’t seen photos of one person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan until someone showed them to him Friday. He says he won’t resign despite widespread calls that he step aside and let Fairfax lead Virginia.

3 p.m.

Northam has vowed to remain in office despite widespread calls for his resignation after a racist photo surfaced in his yearbook page from more than 30 years ago.

Northam said Saturday that he had prematurely apologized for appearing in a picture of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. The photo appeared in his 1984 medical school yearbook.

The Democratic governor said Saturday that he, in fact, was not in the photo and had never even seen the yearbook until Friday.

His refusal to resign signals a potential bruising fight between Northam and his former supporters. Leaders in both parties have repeatedly urged Northam to resign, saying he’s lost the public’s trust.

1:35 p.m.

The president of Eastern Virginia Medical School says a racist photo that appears in the 1984 student yearbook is “shockingly abhorrent.”

In a statement on the school’s website , President Richard Homan said the photo “absolutely antithetical” to the school’s principles, morals and values.

The photo was on the profile page of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who says he believes he’s not one of the men in the picture.

Homan also apologized for “past transgressions of your trust.” He said he’ll convene a meeting of leadership and others to address the issue.

11:50 p.m.

North Carolina’s governor is calling on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign because of a photograph on Northam’s yearbook profile page.

In an emailed statement, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the photograph is both reprehensible and deeply disappointing. He said the photo comes “with pain beyond what many of us can even understand.”
Cooper called Northam’s resignation “the only way forward.”

12:25 p.m.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called a photograph on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook profile page “racist and contrary to fundamental American values.”

She said Saturday via Twitter that she is joining her colleagues in Virginia in calling for Northam “to do the right thing” so that the people in Virginia can heal and move on.

The Virginia Democratic Party on Saturday called on Northam to resign after the photo from a 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced Friday.

1:30 p.m.

The Press conference took place place at the Executive Mansion. Northam called Democrats ahead of the presser to try and shore up support. A wide swath of Democrats and Republicans have called on him to resign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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