Lawmakers react to inconclusive results of investigation into Northam yearbook photo

Photo showed men in KKK attire, blackface

By Samantha Smith - Digital Content Producer, Jessica Jewell - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

NORFOLK, Va. - The results of a probe into the racist yearbook photo that caused a monthslong scandal for Gov. Ralph Northam are now public, and lawmakers still have questions that have been left unanswered. 

Back in February, a photo of a man in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan attire from a 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook became public, and Northam was rumored to be one of the men in the photo. 

The law firm McGuireWoods launched an external investigation into the matter, and the results are mostly inconclusive. 

Lawmakers from across the commonwealth, including Northam himself, are responding after the results of the inconclusive probe were made public Wednesday. 

At a previously scheduled visit in Lexington Wednesday morning, Northam told 10 News, "I was elected to govern. We've got a great team and we're obviously refocusing on the inequities that exist across the commonwealth. I look forward to the next three years of our administration and we're going to keep Virginia the best state in the best country in the world."

According to 10 News Political Analyst Ed Lynch, calls for Northam's resignation should leave his ability to govern relatively intact. 

"I think he finishes out his term. I think he'll probably get some dis-invitations, like he did recently to VMI," said Lynch. "I think there will be more of that but certainly not enough to impede his work as governor, for better or for worse."

You can read the full report here

Below is a statement from Northam: 

“I have cooperated with Richard Cullen and his team over the course of their investigation, both by making myself available for interviews and by turning over the findings of my private inquiry into the matter. I am not in the racist and offensive photo that appears under my name in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. 

“That being said, I know and understand the events of early February and my response to them have caused hurt for many Virginians and for that, I am sorry. I felt it was important to take accountability for the photo’s presence on my page, but rather than providing clarity, I instead deepened pain and confusion.

“In visits with local leaders across the Commonwealth, I have engaged in frank and necessary dialogue on how I can best utilize the power of the governor’s office to enact meaningful progress on issues of equity and better focus our administration’s efforts for the remainder of my term. That conversation will continue, with ensuing action, and I am committed to working to build a better and more equitable Virginia for all who call it home.” 

Below is a statement from House majority leader Todd Gilbert: 

“The report is entirely inconclusive and more questions remain unanswered than answered.

“When this photograph first emerged, Governor Northam admitted to being in the photo and accepted responsibility for its placement on his yearbook page. He then backtracked and promised the people of the Commonwealth answers. The report did not provide many answers. The report produced no substantive evidence to back up the Governor’s assertion that he is not in the photo and that he did not select it for the page.

"Nearly four months after the photograph emerged, the onus remains on Governor Northam to deliver the answers he promised to the citizens he still seeks to serve.

“We, along with the Legislative Black Caucus and Democrat leaders from across the state, called on the Governor to resign in February because it was clear then that the Governor had lost the confidence necessary to lead. Unfortunately, this report does nothing to restore the trust that was lost, and further solidifies the uncertainty surrounding this difficult and painful event.

“The Governor’s actions in the months that have followed, including the veto of bipartisan legislation to protect repeat victims of domestic abuse, have only served to confirm the lack of confidence. He put himself and his political rehabilitation ahead of survivors of domestic abuse, and we fear that he will continue to put those efforts ahead of his obligation to govern the Commonwealth.

“I am also concerned about what leaders at Eastern Virginia Medical School appear to have known with respect to the photograph. The report says that two Presidents of the institution were made aware of the photographs at the time of the Governor’s previous campaigns. While it is unclear if they took any action to cover up the photo’s existence, it certainly appears that there was an effort to avoid public disclosure of such a racist photograph on the yearbook page of the most prominent alumni in school history.”

 The chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia has also released a statement, saying the party's call for Northam's resignation is "unwavering." Read the full statement below: 

"The Republican Party of Virginia's call for Ralph Northam's resignation is unwavering. Ralph Northam admitted to wearing blackface and embarrassed our Commonwealth on an international scale. Only one person has confessed to being in the racist photograph, and that person is Ralph Northam.

"While the Governor has been professing ignorance as to the origin of the photograph or its inclusion in his yearbook entry, his subsequent actions - including his reversal on a 60-day mandatory minimum sentence for abusers convicted of domestic violence - suggest a guilty conscience.

"Ralph Northam does not represent Virginia. Virginia will not tolerate racism. Virginia will not tolerate another day of Ralph Northam's so-called leadership. For the good of the Commonwealth, Ralph Northam needs to resign today."

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