Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) held a press conference Saturday, February 2, after the recent discovery of a racially insensitive photograph on his page in a 1984 medical school yearbook. It was a less than convincing performance and it is unlikely that any but the most gullible will accept his flimsy explanation as he fights to hold onto his office. Now that many Democrats have called for his resignation, Northam could only have saved himself by producing proof that he was not associated with the offending image. He failed to do so and his tenure at the helm of Virginia is still likely to end within days.
Having previously admitted that he was in the photograph – either wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood or in blackface – he now insists that, not only was he not in the photograph, but that he was unaware the image was even on his yearbook page and that it may have been placed there by mistake.
Incredulous Memory Issues
Northam claimed to have never previously seen the yearbook and that is, of course, a possibility. What is inconceivable, however, is that someone who had never in his life dressed up as a member of the KKK, or in blackface, would ever have admitted that he was in the photograph to begin with. Unless the governor has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, it is laughable that he would release a statement apologizing for appearing in this photograph and then later claim that he had never dressed in such a manner. If anyone is buying the idea that this is something one misremembers, there is a famous bridge up for sale.
Even more bizarrely – as the press conference proceeded to the question and answer phase – Northam seemed to imply that he was still unable to say for certain that he was not in the photograph. Could it be that he knows he is, indeed, one of the students pictured and he stopped short of a firm denial because he would then have publicly lied about it?
If the governor had never, in his entire life, dressed in such a manner, he would never have made the initial admission that he was in this picture. No rational person would. He would have immediately issued a statement, firmly and unequivocally denying any knowledge of the events surrounding the photograph. Why, then, would the governor apologize for dressing in such a manner if he had never done so? According to Northam himself, he felt he had to apologize because some people would feel bad about seeing the picture. A strange and utterly irrational explanation.
Northam’s Blackface Red Herring
In an almost comical attempt to endow himself with an air of honesty and credibility, Northam recounted a story – from the same year, 1984 – in which he took part in a dance competition dressed as Michael Jackson, complete with boot polish on his face. It was as if he was trying to convince everyone that if he was willing to own up to doing that, then he would also have admitted to being in the yearbook photo.
In the meantime, Northam did not want to address the nickname “Coonman” that also appeared in the yearbook, beneath a portrait photograph of him.
Northam is done; that is almost a certainty. Instead of immediately issuing a mea culpa for posing in this photograph and then announcing that he would resign if called upon to do so, the governor is now tarnishing whatever positive legacy he may previously have created by attempting to weasel his way out of this controversy. Of course, one should also remember that this is the man who so recently spoke of euthanizing newborn infants as if he were explaining the rules of football, so perhaps nothing more should have been expected of him.