An investigation into whether it was, indeed, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) pictured either in blackface or wearing a KKK hood in his medical school yearbook has come up empty.
Richmond, VA, law firm McQuire Woods was hired by Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) to investigate the photo after it came to light in early February. The firm spoke with “five members of the 1984 yearbook staff and others who were students or staff in the 1980s,” The Virginian-Pilot reported.
“With respect to the photograph on Governor Northam’s personal page, we could not conclusively determine the identity of either individual depicted in the Photograph,” the report said.
This comes despite the fact that Northam admitted to being in the photo when it first appeared in the news. The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra previously reported that Northam released a statement apologizing for the photo.
“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 at the time. “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 next day, however, Northam walked back this statement and claimed he was not in the photo but had admitted to being in it because he had appeared in blackface at another time that year.
“I did not purchase the EVMS yearbook and I was unaware of what was on my page,” Northam said during a press conference. “When I was confronted with the images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page but I believed then and now that am not either of the people in that photo. I stand by my statement of apology to the many Virginians who were hurt by seeing this content on a yearbook page that belongs to me.”
Later in this press conference, Northam admitted to wearing blackface on another occasion while in college.
“My belief that I did not wear that costume or attend that party stems in part from my clear memory of other mistakes I made in the same period of my life,” Northam said. “That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume.”
While the firm could not determine whether Northam was in the photo that appeared on his personal yearbook page, it did find “that two EVMS presidents, including current president Richard Homan, were told about the racist photo while Northam was running for political offices and decided not to make it public,” the Pilot reported.
“We understand President Homan’s reasoning was EVMS should not become involved, or be seen to become involved, in an election as it is a public body and a public institution, and that EVMS did not not [sic] want there to be any suggestion that it had tried to influence Governor Northam in any respect by calling the photograph to his attention,” the report said.
Northam refused to resign in the wake of this scandal. His lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, became embroiled in his own scandal (a woman accused him of sexual assault) shortly after Northam’s yearbook photo gained national attention. The second in line for the governorship — Attorney General Mark Herring — then revealed that he, too, appeared in blackface when he was younger. After it was revealed that the next in line to become Virginia governor was a Republican, national Democrat calls for resignations dried up.