Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he will not leave his office despite pressure from prominent lawmakers to resign over a racially offensive photo that appeared on his medical school yearbook page. The photo shows one person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe.
Northam held a press conference on Saturday afternoon at the governor's mansion where he once again apologized for the image, but said he had nothing to do with it. He said the first time he saw the photo was on Friday, he did not attend that party and the picture is not of him.
"I reflected with my family and classmates from the time and affirmed my conclusion that I am not the person in that photo," North said, calling the image "offensive, racist and despicable."
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One of the reasons Northam said he remembers that he is not in the image is because he participated in a dance competition the same year the yearbook was published — 1984 — in which he used shoe polish to darken his face for a Michael Jackson costume.
"It is because my memory of that episode is so vivid that I truly believe that I am not in that picture of the yearbook," Northam said.
"I certainly take responsibility for what happened in San Antonio," Northam added later. "I have learned from that. But this was not my picture, that was not my costume, as either black face or KKK."
The governor said he does not expect everyone to believe his account, at least not immediately, nor does he expect to be immediately forgiven. He said he would not resign because that would be the easier path.
"I am ready to earn your forgiveness, and I am ready to begin today," he said.
Northam originally apologized Friday on Twitter "for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now."
But Northam told Virginia State Senator Louise Lucas earlier on Saturday that it was not him in the picture, according to the senator's spokesperson. The apology Friday, which called the image "clearly racist and offensive," acknowledged his appearance in the photo and suggests he did, at one point, think he might have been one of the people pictured.
An hour after he made that statement, Northam said he realized that it was not him in the image after all.
"When I was shown this last night it was horrific. It really horrified me. We did what we needed to do last night and that was to reach out and apologize to those who may be hurt, but the more time I've had, I've realized I have no recollection of dressing up like that," the governor said at the press conference on Saturday.