On Saturday, embattled Virginia Democrat Governor Ralph Northam held a disastrous press conference to defend himself against accusations that he appeared in a 1984 yearbook photo that showed two people — one in blackface, the other in a KKK hood. During the conference, Northam claimed that he was not in that particular photo, but did wear blackface on a separate occasion.
“Yesterday I took responsibility for content that appeared on my page in the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook that was clearly racist and offensive. I am not and will not excuse the content of the photo,” Northam said. “It was offensive, racist, and despicable. When my staff showed me the photo in question yesterday, I was seeing it for the first time.”
“I did not purchase the EVMS yearbook and I was unaware of what was on my page,” Northam continued. “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 the press conference, Northam said he knew that was not him in the yearbook photo because he remembered wearing blackface on different occasions.
“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.”
The press conference was filled with multiple embarrassing moments, including one moment when a reporter asked Northam if he could still moonwalk.
Ralph Northam had to look to his wife to get an answer, before responding: “My wife says ‘inappropriate circumstances.'”
Northam later claimed that his past “exposure” to black people was a “unique opportunity” and that he had “a lot of African-American friends.”
“I had the unique opportunity growing up on the Eastern shore; I was in public school during desegregation; I have a lot of African-American friends that I went to school with, played ball with, and I expect that I have as much exposure to people of color as anybody.”