Murphy, Booker call for Va. gov to quit over blackface-KKK photo
TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker called for fellow Democrat Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to step down after a 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced Friday showing him in a photo in which one person is dressed in blackface and another is wearing a Ku Klux Klan uniform.
The yearbook image was first published Friday afternoon by the conservative news site Big League Politics. The Virginian-Pilot later obtained a copy from Eastern Virginia Medical School, which Northam attended. The photo, one of several on a page dedicated to Northam, shows two people posing — one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in a Ku Klux Klan robe.
In his first apology issued in a written statement, Northam called the costume he wore "clearly racist and offensive," but he didn't say which one he had worn.
He later issued a video statement saying he was "deeply sorry" but still committed to serving the "remainder of my term."
Murphy in an interview on MSNBC said "with a heavy heart" that he doesn't see any other choice for his fellow Democrat.
"We're the party of Barrack Obama. The party of inclusion. We have a president who wants to divide us. I'm a former board member of the NAACP. The Ku Klux Klan is a terrorist organization. I don't see that the governor has any other choice other than to step aside," Murphy told host Chris Hayes.
Murphy said "unacceptable behavior in 2019 was just as unacceptable in 1984."
Booker, who declared his candidacy for president earlier on Friday, also called for Northram's resignation.
"These images arouse centuries of anger, anguish, and racist violence and they’ve eroded all confidence in Gov. Northam’s ability to lead. We should expect more from our elected officials. He should resign," Booker wrote on his Twitter account.
Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also called for Northram's resignation.
Northam's departure would mean current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat who is only the second African American to win statewide office in Virginia, would be the next governor. Northam's term was set to end in 2022.
Black lawmakers said they met with Northam Friday evening and said in a statement they appreciate his service.
"But given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as governor," the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said. "It is time for him to resign, so that Virginia can begin the process of healing."
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
More from New Jersey 101.5