Virginia Governor Ralph Northam apologized on Friday for a photograph on his 1984 medical school yearbook page showing two people at a party in racist garb, one smiling and in blackface and standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan costume.
Northam, a Democrat, in his statement of apology indicated that he was one of the people in the photo, but did not state which one. His spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“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,” Northam said in the statement.
“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. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.”
The Virginia-Pilot on its website said it obtained a copy of the photo from the Eastern Virginia Medical School library.
Northam said it would take time and effort to heal the damage.
“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.”
Northam, a pediatric neurologist, graduated from Norfolk medical school in 1984 and did his undergraduate work at Virginia Military Institute.
The statement capped a tough week for the governor after Republicans accused him of advocating infanticide in response to comments Northam made defending a bill that would have lifted restrictions on later-term abortions.
Northam was elected Virginia governor in 2017 after spending the previous decade in Virginia’s state legislature as a senator.
(Reporting by Bill Tarrant and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler)