Newly-elected Virginia Governor already had a rocky start to his first term as an interview surfaced in which he made controversial comments about late-term abortions.
His situation got even worse on Friday — just at the beginning of Black History Month — when Big League Politics unearthed his personal page in a medical school yearbook. The page showed men dressed in blackface and a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) outfits.
Northam eventually apologized, according to The Washington Post, for the photo but didn’t say which of the costumes he wore. The story created a frenzy on social media where Northam received an intense amount of criticism.
Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), however, defended Northam while acknowledging the photo was in “poor taste.”
“His whole life has been about exactly the opposite and that’s what you need to examine, not something that occurred 30 years ago,” Saslaw said, according to the Post.
“While it’s in very poor taste, I would think no one in the General Assembly who would like their college conduct examined. I would hate to have to go back and examine my two years in the Army. Trust me. I was 18 years old and I was a handful, OK? His life since then has been anything but. It’s been a life of helping people, and many times for free.”
Many on Twitter criticized Saslaw for his comments:
Northam should have already resigned, he must go. Saslaw is the only Dem I have seen defend him, and Saslaw is already being primaried hard from the left, he must go too. Justin Fairfax will be a great governor (as would have Perriello) https://t.co/9t55mk3Nr3
— Scott Rome (@Scott_H_Rome) February 1, 2019
Dear Mr. @DickSaslaw. I see you have chosen to defend #RalphNortham, asking us to consider his full life instead of 1 picture
I would, respectfully, ask you to consider my full life, and the life of many others, who lived against the racism and hate Northam used as a joke.
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) February 1, 2019
— Peter Elliott (@peterinpgh) February 1, 2019
A Republican state senator also stood by Northam. “He’s my friend and I will always stand up for him,” Sen. Richard Stuart (R-Stafford) told the Post.
The Republican Party of Virginia wasn’t as tepid in its response.
“These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately,” Jack Wilson, the party’s chair, said in a statement.
Republican leaders also issued a statement demanding an “immediate explanation” from Northam.
As the Daily Beast noted, Northam started facing friendly fire with major left-leaning organizations calling for his resignation.
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. There are no excuses for such a racist display.
— MoveOn (@MoveOn) February 1, 2019
“If [Ralph Northam] 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,” MoveOn tweeted.
Northam’s replacement would reportedly be his Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, an African-American.
Blackface has long been a controversial topic and even led to former NBC host Megyn Kelly’s ouster after she defended the practice for Halloween costumes. The KKK has also come up in contemporary conversation as left-leaning individuals continued alleging the president created a racist atmosphere in the United States.