Virginia Governor Ralph Northam insists he's not the person in the blackface photo, says he's devoted to addressing inequality, race: Washington Post

Key Points
  • Virginia Governor Ralph Northam maintained that he is not the person featured in a decades-old blackface photo that's upended the state's politics, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
  • After a 'horrific' week, Northam said he intends to spend the rest of his term devoted to addressing race and inequality, The Post reported.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam speaks with reporters at a press conference at the Governor's mansion on February 2, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia.
Alex Edelman | Getty Images

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam maintained on Saturday that he is not the person featured in a decades-old blackface photo that's upended the state's politics, but intends to spend the remainder of this term focused on racial reconciliation, The Washington Post reported.

Northam was hit with calls for his resignation from Republicans and Democrats alike after it was revealed that his 1984 medical school yearbook page included a racist photo of a person in blackface, standing next to another person wearing a KKK hood.

In his first interview since the photograph came to light on Feb. 1, the 59 year old governor elected in 2017 continued to defy widespread calls for his resignation. He said that he "overreacted" after the photo was first made public, and that "If I had it to do over I would step back and take a deep breath," he told the publication.

After a "horrific" week in which three of the state's top-ranking Democrats were engulfed in scandals of their own, Northam told The Post that he's was working with his staff on specific proposals to begin expanding access to health care, housing and transportation.

"It's obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do. There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity," The Post reported him as saying.

"There are ongoing inequities to access to things like education, health care, mortgages, capital, entre­pre­neur­ship. And so this has been a real, I think , an awakening for Virginia. It has really raised the level of awareness for racial issues in Virginia. And so we're ready to learn from our mistakes," he added.

Northam's fate has become an even bigger question after two women accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a rising star in the Democratic Party, of sexual assault over a decade ago.

Lawyers for one woman, Meredith Watson, made the accusation in a statement that also called on Fairfax to resign from office. Another woman, California university professor Vanessa Tyson, had recently accused Fairfax of sexual assault in an incident nearly 15 years earlier.

The next person in the line of succession after Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, admitted that he, too, wore blackface at a college party in 1980.

If all three Democratic leaders resigned, then Republican Kirk Cox, the speaker of the House of Delegates, would become governor.

--CNBC's Kevin Brueninger contributed to this report.

The Washington Post's full story can be found on its website.