Our website is made possible by displaying online ads to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our site.

Racist photo surfaces after abortion remarks

First slide

After Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam threw his support behind a bill that would expand access to third-trimester abortion, a tipster gave the news site Big League Politics a photo of the governor's medical school yearbook page, which has a photo of a man in blackface standing next to a man in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hat.

Though Northam apologized for the photo in a Feb. 1 statement, the following day he denied he was either person in the photo during a press conference in Richmond. “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 did not purchase the EVMS yearbook and was unaware of what was on my page,” he said. “I believe then and now that I am not either of the people in the photo.”

Northam did admit that he appeared with shoe polish on his face during a 1984 dance competition in San Antonio in which he dressed as Michael Jackson and performed the moonwalk. “I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that,” he said. “It is because my memory of that episode is so vivid, that I truly do not believe I am in the picture in my yearbook.” 

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, in a Feb. 2. statement and in his Walk Humbly podcast this week, decried the photo and Northam’s response. “Those photos that appear were very disturbing. The way the governor responded, either you remember doing it or you don’t, that is what I think brought such outrage,” Bishop Burbidge said during his podcast. 

“The commonwealth of Virginia has witnessed public officials, including our governor, make callous statements ignoring the dignity of unborn children and jeopardizing the safety and protection of those even in the process of being born,” said Bishop Burbidge in a statement. “Now, with the extremely disturbing photos in Gov. Northam’s medical school yearbook, we see another offense against the dignity of human life – the sin of racism.”

 Northam is still governor, though politicians from Virginia and across the country have called for his resignation. In his earlier statement, Northam said the behavior shown in the yearbook photo "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." 

Northam, a former pediatric neurosurgeon, was an officer in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1984 to 1992.

Catholics News Service contributed to this article.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019