Northam identity in blackface photo could not be confirmed

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on May 22, 2019 - Duration: 00:58s

Northam identity in blackface photo could not be confirmed

Rginia Governor Ralph Northam's former medical school was unable to determine his role in a racist photograph that appeared on his 1984 yearbook page, according Ben Hatch of McGuireWoods law firm.

Rough cut (no reporter narration).

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Northam identity in blackface photo could not be confirmed

ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's former medical school was unable to determine his role in a racist photograph that appeared on his 1984 yearbook page, according to a report released on Wednesday following a three-month inquiry.

The photo sparked weeks of political chaos in the state after it was published by a conservative website in February, setting off scandals that embroiled Virginia's three top Democrats.

It shows one person in blackface makeup and another in the robes of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.

Northam initially admitted to having appeared in the photo and apologized.

He later changed his story, saying he did not believe he was pictured, but had performed in blackface to impersonate the singer Michael Jackson at about that time.

That led his alma mater, the Eastern Virginia Medical School, to hire the law firm McGuireWoods to investigate how the photo appeared on Northam's yearbook page.

"No one we interviewed told us the governor was in the photograph, and no one could positively state who was in the photograph," the report said.

"We found no information that the Photograph was placed in error, though we acknowledge there is scant information on this subject thirty-five years after the fact." The McGuireWoods report concluded that the yearbook's production was overseen by students with little or no faculty input up to 2013.

Northam, a white 59-year-old former U.S. Army doctor, resisted February calls to step down from within his own party in Virginia - seen as a key swing state for the 2020 presidential election - as well as from at least five Democratic presidential candidates.

Two other Virginia officials were wrapped up in scandal shortly thereafter, with women accusing Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, and Attorney General Mark Herring saying he wore blackface in college to depict a black rapper.

Polls showed Northam keeping strong support among the state's black residents.

In a Washington Post poll, 58 percent of black residents said Northam should remain in office versus 37 percent who said he should leave.

Northam was interviewed twice as part of the inquiry, and said he was "positive" he was not in the photograph and did not know who was.

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