Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was clinging to office Monday morning amid nearly unanimous calls from his own party to resign over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook, after a bizarre weekend in which he first admitted he was in the picture, and then denied it.
Governor Northam called his top-level staff, including cabinet members and the Lt Governor, for an “urgent meeting” on Sunday evening.
A Northam official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the governor met with minority officials in his administration.
A democratic official reportedly told the Washington Post the meeting was emotional and Northam is scheduling a larger meeting for administration staff on Monday morning.
The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus declared that Northam “still does not understand the seriousness of his actions.”
The yearbook photo shows someone in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.
“I think he’s been completely dishonest and disingenuous,” Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”He knew this picture was there, and he could’ve come clean and talked to African-Americans that he’s close to decades ago.”
Many are clamoring for his resignation.
On Friday, Gov. Northam apologized for appearing in a photograph that featured what appeared to be a man in blackface and a second person cloaked in Ku Klux Klan garb. In a video posted on Twitter, he said he could not “undo the harm my behavior caused then and today.”
By Saturday, he reversed course and said the racist photo on his yearbook profile page did not feature him after all. The Democratic governor said he had not seen the photo before Friday, since he had not purchased the commemorative book or been involved in its preparation more than three decades ago.
“It has taken time for me to make sure that it’s not me, but I am convinced, I am convinced that I am not in that picture,” he told reporters gathered at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, calling the shot offensive and horrific.
Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, told ABC News on Sunday that he doesn’t see how Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam can survive the fallout.
He told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that the explanation Northam offered in a news conference Saturday doesn’t make a difference “at this juncture.”
Attorney General Mark Herring said Governor Nort am can no longer effectively lead the Commonwealth and should step down.
Late Saturday, Senators. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., called for Northam to resign in a joint-statement.
Virginia governors can be removed for “malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor” under the state constitution, but top Democrats said they don’t believe it will come to that.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe predicted that Northam – who served as McAuliffe’s lieutenant governor – will eventually leave office.
News Channel 11 is following the latest on this story. We’ll post more details as soon as it becomes available.