Virginia governor resists mounting pressure to resign

Virginia governor resists mounting pressure to resign

(Reuters) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Saturday resisted mounting pressure from his Democratic party to resign after a photograph surfaced which he said showed him and another person in racist garb at a party decades earlier.

FILE PHOTO: Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, Democratic candidate for governor, delivers remarks before introducing former U.S. President Barack Obama to speak at a rally with supporters in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Northam, who took office a year ago, will hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. ET (1930 GMT) on Saturday, his office said. Earlier, U.S. network NBC cited a spokesperson for the governor as saying he did not plan to resign.

Northam had apologized on Friday, saying he was one of the people shown in the photo, which depicted one person in blackface standing next to another in a Ku Klux Klan costume.

But he also said he would remain in office, and on Saturday he reportedly expressed doubt he actually was in the photo, which appeared under his name in his 1984 medical school yearbook.

“He just told me he didn’t think it’s him,” state senator L. Louise Lucas said, according to the Washington Post. “And I said, ‘Ralph, this is a day late and a dollar short. It’s too late.’”

Northam’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on calls for his resignation.

Pressure on him from within his party is growing.

“Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately,” former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat weighing a 2020 presidential run, said on Twitter.

Protesters gathered in front the his office in Richmond, Virginia, waving signs demanding he step down.

The head of Northam’s party in the state also called on him to quit.

“We made the decision to let Governor Northam do the correct thing and resign this morning – we have gotten word he will not do so this morning,” said Susan Swecker, the chair for the Democratic Party in Virginia.

Other prominent Democrats – including 2020 presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Julian Castro – have been calling on Northam to resign since Friday.

Former Democratic Governor L. Douglas Wilder said on Saturday Northam should be criticized for the photos but stopped short of calling for his resignation. “The choice of his continuing in office is his to make,” Wilder said on Twitter.

Northam, a 59-year-old pediatric neurologist and Army veteran, graduated from Norfolk medical school in 1984.

The Virginia-Pilot, which published the photo on Friday, said on its website it obtained a copy of the photo from the Eastern Virginia Medical School library.

Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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