Gov. Ralph Northam Off the Hook Again as Investigation Into 1984 Yearbook Photo Finds Inconclusive Results
The political life of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam goes on.
This morning, officials from Eastern Virginia Medical School held a press conference to report the findings from an investigation they commissioned into a racist photo published on Va. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s page in the school’s 1984 yearbook.
NBC Washington reports:
“With respect to the Photograph on Governor Northam’s personal page, we could not conclusively determine the identity of either individual depicted in the Photograph,” the medical school said its summary of the findings. “The Governor himself has made inconsistent public statements in this regard. No individual that we interviewed has told us from personal knowledge that the Governor is in the photograph, and no individual with knowledge has come forward to us to report that the Governor is in the photograph.”
The report also said that they did not find any information that the photograph was placed on Northam’s personal page in error and that they could not conclusively determine the origins of the photograph. “Our inquiry in this regard was restricted by the passage of time and the dearth of contemporaneous documentation,” the findings say.
Northam has said he never bought a copy of the yearbook, but the school’s findings say that one person recalled looking at the yearbook with him in 1984.
“While the Governor denies that this encounter occurred, this witness account would indicate that the Governor did know about the photograph in 1984, however, the witness did not think the Governor was personally depicted in the photograph,” the school’s findings say.
Watch video from the school’s announcement below:
JUST IN: Investigators “could not conclusively determine” the identity of “either individual” depicted in the racist photo appearing on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s personal yearbook page. https://t.co/3RoHjCpDWk pic.twitter.com/aTqNW9Jaj0
— ABC News (@ABC) May 22, 2019
NEW: The Eastern Virginia Medical School could not "conclusively determine" whether or not Governor Ralph Northam is one of the individuals depicted in a racist photo on his 1984 yearbook page
Page below from school's newly-released report pic.twitter.com/xFxh1s3ZTw
— Johnny Verhovek (@JTHVerhovek) May 22, 2019
They launched this investigation, in part, because of the “inconsistent statements” Gov. Northam gave on this issue on February 1st and 2nd. After the story broke, he said it was him in the photo. The next day, he retracted and said it wasn’t him.
Here’s a rough timeline of events as they unfolded at the time:
Friday, Feb. 1, 2019
Mid-afternoon, the conservative website Big League Politics published yearbook photos from the early 1980s of Northam from Eastern Virginia Medical School. One of the photos showed two men standing side by side – one wore a KKK costume, and the other wore blackface.
BLP has obtained a yearbook photograph depicting @GovernorVA Ralph Northam, you know the one who supports infanticide, and a friend in BLACKFACE and a KKK ROBE.
So far, no prominent Democrats have disavowed Northam.https://t.co/Hvq3LXDGUq
— Big League Politics (@bigleaguepol) February 1, 2019
Rumors and speculation swirled on social media. Was the offending photo real or fake? If it was authentic, which one was Northam?
The Virginian-Pilot confirmed the authenticity of the photos a couple of hours later and credited BLP for breaking the story.
Early that evening, Northam issued a statement admitting to being in the blackface/KKK photo:
BREAKING: @RalphNortham confirms the photo from his yearbook is of him and he apologies.
“I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused."
FULL STATEMENT: pic.twitter.com/kBZaiAAib0
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) February 1, 2019
Later that evening, Gov. Northam posted a video on Twitter again and acknowledged his actions were wrong but vowed to serve out the remainder of his term:
My fellow Virginians, earlier today I released a statement apologizing for behavior in my past that falls far short of the standard you set for me when you elected me to be your governor. I believe you deserve to hear directly from me. pic.twitter.com/1rSw1oxfrX
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) February 2, 2019
Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019:
The New York Times‘s Jonathan Martin posted a series of tweets that Gov. Northam backtracked, and privately told other Democrats that he did not appear in the photo:
The governor has also been calling his former med school classmates to jog their memories. He does NOT think he is the man in Klan hood or blackface and doesn’t want to resign before trying to determine who is in that photo.
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 2, 2019
NEW: Northam told a senior Virginia Democrat this morning that he never selected the photos for the yearbook and, in conversations with med school classmates, he had been told some of the pictures were mixed up across the pages
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 2, 2019
During that afternoon press conference, Northam retracted the statements he’d made the day before, stating it was not him in the picture:
“When my staff showed me the photo in question yesterday, I was seeing it for the first time,” he said Saturday.
He said he never purchased a yearbook from Eastern Virginia Medical School, which he graduated from in 1984. He also said he never submitted that photo but did submit others that appear alongside it: a portrait of him, one of him kneeling in a farm setting and one of him sitting against a convertible.
On Saturday, he said he gave that response based on the evidence he had at the time, even though he said he knew from the first time he looked at the photo that it wasn’t him.
“I am not the person in that photo,” he reiterated several times, adding he wanted to “set the record straight.”
He was also asked about nicknames that appear with his photo in a 1981 Virginia Military Institute yearbook when he attended college there.
He said his “main” nickname in high school and college was “Goose” because his voice cracked and changed octaves, but two people that were a year ahead of him at VMI gave him the nickname “Coonman,” a possible reference to an offensive racial slur.
“I don’t know their motives,” he said of his classmates.
He admitted that he dressed in blackface as Michael Jackson for a dance competition in San Antonio that same year, where he did the moonwalk.
Reporter: "Are you still able to moonwalk?"
Ralph Northam looks around, appearing to get ready to do the moonwalk, when his wife has to tell him no, saying "inappropriate circumstances"
Northam: "My wife says 'inappropriate circumstances'" pic.twitter.com/ZftGy5vhiJ
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) February 2, 2019
His almost immediate backtracking over his initial statements never made any sense, and still don’t. But because Northam is a Democrat, who is held to different standards than Republicans are, he ultimately weathered the storm. Some Democratic candidates for president came to Northam’s defense like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN), who suggested a month and a half after the scandal first broke that it was time to “move on.”
And today’s announcement from EVMS ensures that the governor will skate on this issue. Again.
So predictable. In other news, dog bites man.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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