Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) apologized for his resurfaced 1984 yearbook page, which showed two unnamed men, one wearing blackface and another wearing the Ku Klux Klan’s white hood and robe.
“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 of the racist photo from the yearbook of Eastern Virginia Medical School, which he graduated from in 1984.
The photo was first published by Big League Politics on Friday and was later confirmed by The Virginian Pilot, which obtained a copy of the yearbook. The school also confirmed the photo to HuffPost.
In his statement, Northam confirmed that he appears in the photo but did not identify which man he is.
Calling the image “clearly racist and offensive,” he said that he would work “to heal the damage this conduct has caused.”
A spokeswoman for Northam did not immediately respond to a request to clarify whether Northam is the man in blackface or in the KKK outfit, or to explain why Northam posed for the photo and included it in his yearbook.
Northam’s statement read:
Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.
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.
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.
I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. 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.
Later Friday, CBS News found that his 1981 yearbook at the Virginia Military Institute lists one of his nicknames as “Coonman.” “Coon” is often used as a slur for black people.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement after Northam’s apology saying they are “still processing” the “disgusting, reprehensible, and offensive” image.
“These pictures rip off the scabs of an excruciatingly painful history and are a piercing reminder of this nation’s sins,” the statement continued.
This article has been updated with a statement from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.