Ralph Northam apologizes for medical school yearbook photo with blackface, KKK robe

Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam apologized Friday for appearing in a “racist and offensive” photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page that showed one man dressed in blackface and another in a KKK robe, while giving no indication he plans to resign.

Northam – who has been under fire this week for comments made about a third-trimester abortion bill in his state – admitted to being one of the people in the photo, though it’s not clear which costume he is wearing.

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“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive,” Northam said in a statement.

He added, “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.”

Turning to Twitter on Friday night to speak directly with the public, he elaborated on his error in judgment, and on his apology for it, saying the photo doesn't reflect the person he is today or how he's conducted himself as a public servant.

In a video accompanying his tweet, he said, "I cannot change the decisions I made, nor can I undo the harm my behavior caused then and today."

He said he was committed to continuing his work as governor and "living up to the expectations you set for me."

Fox News obtained a copy of the 1984 yearbook page from the Eastern Virginia Medical School library. Northam graduated from the school that year. The Virginian-Pilot, the Washington Post and the Richmond Times-Dispatch also reported they independently confirmed the authenticity of the page.

The quote on the page says, “There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.”

Fox News obtained a copy of 1984 yearbook page from the Eastern Virginia Medical School library in Norfolk.

Fox News obtained a copy of 1984 yearbook page from the Eastern Virginia Medical School library in Norfolk.

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A growing number of both Republicans and Democrats on Friday evening said Northam should step down.

“Racism has no place in Virginia,” Republican Party of Virginia chairman Jack Wilson said in a statement. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Gov. Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”

Derrick Johnson, the leader of the NAACP, also called for Northam's resignation, as did Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro.

"If @RalphNortham is one of the two people pictured in the highly disturbing, horrific photo wearing either blackface or a KKK hood – or if he selected or approved of its use on his yearbook page — he should immediately resign," the liberal MoveOn.org group tweeted. "There are no excuses for such a racist display."

Northam did not respond to those calls. But in his statement, he said, "This behavior 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."

“I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused," Northam said. "I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their governor.”

Earlier on Friday, a conservative website called Big League Politics first posted a photo of the yearbook page.

The White House took aim at Northam, referencing the attention Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's high school yearbook received during his brutal confirmation fight last year.

"This should be easier work than parsing every word and semicolon in the Kavanaugh yearbook," White House adviser Kellyanne Conway tweeted Friday.

The newest revelation comes as Northam came under fire Wednesday after he waded into the fight over a controversial abortion bill that one sponsor said could allow women to terminate a pregnancy up until the moment before birth -- with critics saying Northam indicated a child could be killed after birth.

Northam’s troubles began Wednesday when he appeared on WTOP to discuss The Repeal Act.

Northam, a former pediatric neurologist, was asked about the sponsor's comments and said he couldn’t speak for Tran, but said that third-trimester abortions are done with “the consent of obviously the mother, with consent of the physician, multiple physicians by the way, and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities or there may be a fetus that’s not viable.”

“So in this particular example if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered,” Northam said. “The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

The intent of his comments was not clear. But some conservative commentators and lawmakers took his remarks to mean he was discussing the possibility of letting a newborn die -- or even "infanticide."

Northam refused to back down from comments that have sparked outrage. "I have devoted my life to caring for children and any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting," Northam tweeted this week.

But Republicans aren’t buying his defense.

“What’s shameful is that you're too cowardly to say point blank that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said in a statement Thursday. “You could have said that yesterday. But because you’re terrified of an extremist pro-abortion lobby that now defends even infanticide, you're still ducking."

Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial race. During that contest, Democrats tried to link Gillespie to the torch-bearing white nationalists who infamously marched in Charlottesville. When he won, California Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted congratulations to Northam for "showing that Virginia won’t stand for hatred and bigotry."

Last month, Florida's secretary of state resigned after a local newspaper obtained photos of him dressed in blackface as a Hurricane Katrina victim.

Fox News' Lukas Mikelionis, Jeffrey Rubin and Adam Shaw contributed to this report.