Months after calling on Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign over a racist photo in his medical school yearbook, the commonwealth’s current Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe, dismissed it as “a dumb mistake 40 years ago” and tried to claim that Northam was not in the picture, CNN reported Friday.
In February 2019, Northam’s page in the 1984 edition of Eastern Virginia Medical School’s yearbook resurfaced. Included among the images on the page were a photo of a man in a Ku Klux Klan hood standing next to another man in blackface.
Northam initially apologized when the photo was published by the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, though he rejected calls to resign.
A day later, however, Northam held a bizarre news conference in which he suggested he was not in the photo — though he did admit to putting dark shoe polish on his face for a talent show in which he impersonated Michael Jackson.
The following day, McAuliffe — who served as Virginia’s governor between 2014 and 2018 and had Northam as his lieutenant governor — told CNN’s “State of the Union” that “once that picture with the blackface and Klansman came out, there is no way you can continue to be the governor of the commonwealth of Virginia.”
“You know if you put black paint on your face,” McAuliffe added. “You know if you put a hood on. And so if it isn’t you, you come out with — immediately and say, ‘This is not me.’
“So, I can’t understand what’s going on, but I do know this. Ralph is a good, moral, decent man, and may have made some mistakes in his past,” McAuliffe added. “We all have made mistakes. Ralph will do the right thing for the Commonwealth of Virginia. He will put Virginia first and I think that will happen relatively soon … we have to move on.”
However, CNN reported, McAuliffe sounded a different message when he appeared before the Hudson Union Society in July of that year to promote his book “Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism.”
“Are you comfortable with the present governor, who appeared in blackface next to somebody dressed up as a Ku Klux Klan [member]?” McAuliffe was asked.
“Well, he didn’t do Ku Klux Klan, in fairness,” the former governor said.
“No, I’m saying he’s in blackface next to somebody that is dressed up –” the unidentified MC began.
“Yeah, but that wasn’t him, either,” McAuliffe interrupted. “It’s now come out he wasn’t either one of them.”
In fact, though Northam has insisted he is not in the offensive photo, his claim has never been proven. Investigators hired by EVMS found in March 2019 that they “could not conclusively determine the identity of either individual depicted in the Photograph.”
“Listen,” McAuliffe told the Hudson Union Society, “even if it had been him in the blackface, you know, it was a dumb mistake 40 years ago.
“I grew up in New York,” he went on. “In all fairness, folks, I didn’t know what blackface was. You know, I did not experience – we had no racism issues, honestly, growing up in Syracuse.”
McAuliffe is locked in a tight race with Republican Glenn Youngkin, who is trying to be the first GOPer elected governor of Virginia since Bob McDonnell in 2009. The latest RealClearPolitics polling average showed McAuliffe holding a narrow 1.8 percentage point lead as of Friday.
McAuliffe’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the report.