Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax reacted Saturday to the controversial photo that appeared on Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page, which showed a man dressed in blackface and another in a KKK hood and robe, saying the image had “shocked and saddened” him.
While Fairfax did not explicitly call for Northam’s resignation -- several other lawmakers, including multiple 2020 presidential candidates, have done so since the photo emerged -- he said he couldn’t “condone the actions from his past.” He also said Northam had personally reached out to him to express regret.
The yearbook image is “an example of a painful scourge that continues to haunt us today and holds us back from the progress we need to make,” Fairfax said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“As we commemorate 400 years since the first enslaved Africans were brought to Virginia, it is painful to experience such a searing reminder of the modern legacy of our nation’s original sin,” he continued. “And, as someone whose great-great-great grandfather was enslaved in Virginia, this episode strikes particularly close to home.”
The embattled Democratic governor during a news conference Saturday said he was not in the racist photo, despite apologizing for appearing in the photo a day earlier. However, he did acknowledge darkening his face for another occasion that same year, when he dressed as singer Michael Jackson as part of a talent contest.
"When I was confronted with the image, I was appalled that it appeared on my page, but I believed then and I believe now that I am not either of the people in that photograph," he told reporters at the governor's mansion.
He apologized for the picture appearing on his page, calling the image "offensive" and "racist," but said that he had nothing to do with the preparation of the yearbook, and that he did not purchase it.
In regard to his “Michael Jackson costume,” Northam said he regrets “that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.”
The photo was first published by Big League Politics on Friday and led to numerous officials calling on him to resign. The governor on Saturday continued to say that he would not step down from his post amid the controversy.
Fairfax on Saturday wrote that he was pleased Northam apologized, adding that the governor, with whom he has long worked, contacted him “to express his sincere regrets and to apologize.”
“While his career has been marked by service to children, soldiers, and constituents, I cannot condone the actions from his past that, at the very least, suggest a comfort with Virginia’s darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping, and intimidation,” Fairfax said of the governor.
He added that Virginia and the country needed “leaders with the ability to unite and help us rise to the better angels of our nature.”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Alex Pappas and Alexandra Pamias contributed to this report.