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Reston-Area Lawmakers Join Calls for Northam to Resign After Racist Photo Surfaces

by Catherine Douglas Moran February 4, 2019 at 10:15 am 28 Comments

Reston-area lawmakers are calling for Gov. Ralph Northam’s resignation after a racist yearbook photo recently surfaced.

The photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook shows two people standing next to each other — one in blackface and the other person in a KKK costume.

Northam apologized on Friday (Feb. 1) for appearing in the “clearly racist and offensive” photo and the hurt it caused 35 years later, indicating that he plans to stay in office.

Then on Saturday, Northam said that he doesn’t think he is in the photo and suggested that it may have been placed on his yearbook page by mistake. He admitted to a separate incident where he darkened his skin for a costume, according to news reports.

Still, many politicians from both sides of the aisle say a resignation can help heal the pain caused by the photo and bring in a new leader who Virginians can trust — a sentiment backed by Reston and Herndon lawmakers (who are all Democrats).

State Sens. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) and Jennifer Boysko (D-33rd District) called on Northam to resign. Howell wrote the following to constituents:

The Ralph Northam I know is not a racist.  The Ralph Northam I know is a decent and kind man.  For the ten years I have known him, he has courageously tried to promote racial harmony in our Southern state.

However, if he is in the disgraceful, abhorrent photo, he must resign. This is a very sad time for our Commonwealth.

This horrible episode has ripped the scab off the festering wound of discrimination still in Virginia.  We must all examine our consciences to see what more we can do to bring healing and reconciliation to all Virginians.

Del. Ken Plum (D-36th District) said in a tweet that he agrees with the statements of the House Democratic Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus and the Senate Democratic Caucus calling for Northam’s resignation.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District), who represents Reston and Herndon, released a statement with Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) on Saturday (Feb. 2) saying that “nothing we have heard since changes our view that his resignation is the only way forward for the Commonwealth.”

Connolly and Breyer said that the governor must step aside and “allow the process of healing to begin” under Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.

“Virginia has a painful past where racism was too often not called out for its evil. The only way to overcome that history is to speak and act with absolute moral clarity,” the statement said.

Both of Virginia’s Democratic U.S. senators tweeted that they believe Northam should step down.

Despite the widespread condemnation, it remains unclear at this time whether Northam will resign or not. If he does, Fairfax would become the second African American governor in Virginia’s history.

Photo via @GovernorVA


  • Scott

    Prediction: Northam remains governor.
    All of the Dems have performed their virtue signaling for the public, but you will hear no further outrage or mention from Connolly, Plum, Kaine, Warner, etc.
    Being a Democrat means never having to (really) say you’re sorry or be accountable.

    It’s despicable, that within a matter of days, we have Northam:
    1) Seemingly saying that infanticide is okay if the mother wants it
    2) appearing in a tasteless/racial Halloween costume from 35 years ago
    …and the only outrage from the Democratic party is about the photograph.
    Further, to put this in context, no one on the medical school year book staff thought the photo was inappropriate for the south in 1984. Northam is despicable, some would even say a “narcissistic maniac,” but 1984 was a different time south of the mason-dixon line. That photo would never happen today and it’s unfair, frankly, to hold him accountable in 2019 for the culture of 1984. (Please note this is not a defense of racism). Hold Northam accountable, as a physician and politician, for approving of the killing of babies, but the moral outrage over the costume is eye-rolling.

    • 30yearsinreston

      At least its shut up Plums scolding of the electorate
      Maybe he will ow have time to visit VDOT and fix the road mess
      Next Up – The Lt Governor (Fairfax)

    • Hillary 2020

      everyone calm down. northie did not much wrong – just had a little too much fun in his youth. not a big deal

      as for infanticide, totally taken out of context. did you know Donald, yes your Donald, eats babies for breakfast?

      what’s in your closet?

      • Scott

        1. Not taken out of context. Straight up said the fate of the baby would be discussed after it was born.

        2. Who is “my Donald?”
        3. In my closet? Well, I’m far from perfect, but I have never suggested it is okay to kill a human being under any circumstances. Ever !

        • John Higgins

          Scott, I don’t find it quite “straight up” as some folks do. The full quote: “The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and family desired and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.”

          Resuscitation is a medical procedure generally understood to revive someone from apparent death. A fair reading of his comment envisions an infant who was stillborn, has been revived, and is on life support. As with any minor whose life is so maintained, what follows necessarily calls for a discussion between physician and parent. And, yes, some parents choose to end life support.

          His quote is what one would expect any physician to say, regardless of how one views this rather extreme proposal regarding Virginia’s abortion laws.

          • Scott

            Perhaps John, but the words life support we’re never uttered by the governor. When the question is about abortion, and the answer is that a discussion would occur between doc and mom, it’s usually not about life support. What you suggest requires a lot of reading between the lines and after the controversy erupted, I don’t recall the gov providing any such clarification.

          • John Higgins

            You caught me. I introduced the issue of “life support” without citing my source. Indeed, Northam did not use those words. I expect because this was an unplanned statement in an interview and he took it as a given that (a) Virginia law prohibits infanticide and nothing in the proposed legislation would change that; (b) if there is successful resuscitation following abortion procedures, the result is live birth [see (a) above]; (c) the only remaining possibility is an infant whose life is sustained only by medical means.

            Current Virginia law (which a pediatrician is surely aware of) requires: “”Measures for life support for the product of such abortion or miscarriage must be available AND UTILIZED if there is ANY clearly visible evidence of viability.” Interestingly, the proposal being discussed (HB2491) actually strengthens that by changing “must” to “shall” – a clearly understood legal imperative.

            I’m no fan of Northam (didn’t even vote for the man) but I take no joy in distortion of his statements by his political rivals and critics. What he said reflects current law and medical ethics. The criticism sounds to me a lot like the phony “Death Panels” we heard so much about a few years ago.

            P.S. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

          • consequences

            interesting how you two men discuss details of the womb as if it was yours.

            100 years fast forward. if a man impregnates a woman against her wishes then his package will be removed promptly and without too much pain.

          • Mike M

            Man problems?

      • Chkitout1

        DID NOTHING WRONG??? The racist costumes that “coonman” wore is really nothing? Are you Hillary 2020 or should I address you as Governor?

  • Guest

    Knee JERK responses, all of them!

  • HateHasNoHomeInReston

    Remember when Northam ran all those commercials comparing the voters of his opposition to that of klan members? It was a commercial with a minority being chased down by some people in a ford F-150 with a confederate flag.

    I guess he’s very good at projecting.

    • Scott

      Northam didn’t run it, but it was in support of his campaign from a, well, racist PAC. Sure didn’t age well did it.

  • Tom

    This whole incident raises a bunch of questions:
    1. This yearbook has existed for 35 years and yet we just hear about it now. People knew about it. Why wasn’t it exposed before now? Gillespie’s team must be kicking themselves for not finding out about it back in 2017.
    2. Even worse, what kind of school would allow this to appear in a yearbook in 1984? I did not live in the south during that period so am not fully cognizant of how acceptable something like that was but I find it disturbing that any school would approve this.
    3. Who was the editor of this rag? Maybe he’s not a public official, but that person should have to answer to this. If I had been the president of that school, I never would have allowed something like that to be printed and if it had been printed, I would have revoked the editor’s medical degree.

    This whole thing just makes me believe that this kind of behavior was still acceptable 35 years ago in the south. Northam didn’t buy the yearbook and says he saw it for the first time last week. Whether that’s true or not, I just can’t imagine someone not coming up to him after it was published to tell him about this. That just reinforces my conclusion that people in the south just didn’t this a big deal back then.

    • Del Mueller

      He didn’t look at his yearbook pictures?? Really? That is pretty hard to believe. Do you look at yours? I looked at all of mine.

  • OneReally

    Amazing this is such a story.

    Meanwhile on the radio he was talking of what amount to far worst.

    Where is the outrage for that?

  • Why do you bother?

    ” Even worse, what kind of school would allow this to appear in a yearbook in 1984? ”


  • Chuck Morningwood

    That was 35 years ago. Does anyone think that he would do such a thing today? I’m for cutting the man some slack.

    • Amy Sue

      Uh, sorry…. I was an adult 35 years ago and this type of thing was totally taboo and not accepted. Times were not different 35 years ago.

      • OneReally

        I hope you’re not serious.

        Times are so much different. Unless you were on your iphone liking photos in 1984 as well.

  • Mike M

    The whole situation is a chocolate truffle for me. Dems attacking a key Dem in a key state all over their sacred cow issue – [email protected]! The story, whatever the truth, is decades old! I am no fan of Northam, but I think he ought to slammed on his wrong headed views on the issues of today. Sorry, despite the DNC propaganda, I know that racism is NOT the critical issue they make it out to be. But look at how they fall all over themselves to distance themselves and remain the champions of that one critical constituency they so superficially seek to herd and harvest every election. What happens when women and AAs start to realize their interests are the same as mine and [email protected] isn’t really an issue after all? That day is moving upon us. The real [email protected] are those who cynically pretend it matters above nearly every other issue.

    PS: This is the second version of my comment. The first was censored.

  • Del Mueller

    I graduated college in 1984. And no I would not have dressed up in any of that racist garb even as a “joke.” Northam’s upbringing is more Southern than mine. It does not excuse these photos. Surprised he does not remember the photos, was he or wasn’t he in one of those costumes. All that said I don’t believe he needs to resign. We all do inappropriate things when young and unfortunately when older.


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