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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam: I regret how the scandal over a 1980s racist photo was handled

Key Points
  • Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says he regrets the way his administration handled a scandal over a decades-old blackface photograph.
  • Northam resisted calls for his resignation after a racist photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced earlier this year.
  • "I have traveled around Virginia. I have listened and learned a lot. I still have a lot to learn, but the more I know the more I can do," he says.
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Gov. Northam on Virginia being named Top State for Business in 2019

The governor of Virginia told CNBC on Wednesday that he regrets the way his administration handled a scandal over a blackface photograph from the 1980s.

"The occurrences in February hurt Virginians, confused Virginians. I regret that. We didn't handle it as well as we should have," Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "I have traveled around Virginia. I have listened and learned a lot. I still have a lot to learn, but the more I know the more I can do."

Northam resisted calls for his resignation after a racist photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced earlier this year. The photo showed one person in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood and another person in blackface. Northam originally apologized before saying that neither person in the photo was him.

Both of Northam's potential successors were also embroiled in scandal at the same time the governor was under fire. A college professor accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him at a hotel in 2004, and Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to using blackface in the 1980s.

Northam pledged to devote the rest of his time as governor to addressing racial inequality, citing an executive order aimed at boosting women and minority-owned small businesses. As another example, he talked about the new law reinstating drivers' licenses suspended for outstanding fines. Back in April, he said, "This inequitable policy criminalizes poverty."

"There are a number of inequities in our society, to include access to health care, access to education, access to the business environment, access to the voting booth, so we are really focusing on those inequities and our cabinet members are addressing those," said Northam on Wednesday morning, shortly after Virginia was named CNBC's Top State for Business in 2019. It was the first time since 2011 that Virginia took the top spot.

Northam said he wants to ensure that Virginia remains a great place to work and to raise a family. "I want to let this country know, and certainly Virginians know, that we are an inclusive state."

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Key Points
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  • Biden easily made the most money last year among Democratic presidential candidates who have released their tax returns so far.