RICHMOND—On Friday morning, a conservative news website posted Gov. Ralph Northam’s page from a college yearbook featuring a racist photo.
By Friday evening, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly were calling on Northam to resign.
By Saturday morning, Republicans and liberal advocacy groups echoed that demand—and protesters assembled in front of the Executive Mansion. In the afternoon, Northam emerged from his residence, apologized to Virginians but made it clear he won’t resign. Here is a timeline of how the scandal unfolded.
- The website Big League Politics was the first to publish a photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook that shows two people, one in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan garb, on a page dedicated to Northam. The photo was confirmed by The Virginian–Pilot. The story circulated throughout the day.
- Shortly after 5 p.m., Republican leaders in the General Assembly issued a statement saying, “This is a deeply disturbing and offensive photograph in need of an immediate explanation by the Governor.” Then New Virginia Majority, an advocacy group that usually supports Democrats, said it “strongly condemns” the photo.
- About 6:15 p.m., Northam issued a statement saying, “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.”
- At 6:47 p.m., Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney issued a response: “Governor Northam has a long and distinguished career history of service to our Commonwealth and nation, but he should do the honorable thing and step down.”
- At 9 p.m., Northam issued a video apology on social media, but stated that he intended to finish his term.
- More groups condemned the photo, including the advocacy group Progress Virginia and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. Members of the caucus then met with Northam.
- At 11 p.m., the Legislative Black Caucus called for Northam’s resignation: “Given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as Governor. It is time for him to resign, so that Virginia can begin the process of healing.”
- At 11:02 p.m., former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called for Northam’s resignation: “The situation that he has put himself and the Commonwealth of Virginia in is untenable. It’s time for Ralph to step down, and for the Commonwealth to move forward.”
- At 11:06 p.m., the Democratic leadership in the Senate called on Northam to resign.
- At 11:15 p.m., Virginia House Democratic Caucus said: “We regret to say that we are no longer confident in the Governor’s representation of Virginians. Though it brings us no joy to do so, we must call for Governor Northam’s resignation.”
- At 11:49 p.m., a group of progressive advocacy organizations including Planned Parenthood, Progress Virginia and New Virginia Majority issued a joint call for Northam to step down.
- By the end of the day, Democratic politicians at both the national and state level called for Northam’s resignation, including Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia both issued statements condemning the racist photo but didn’t call for Northam’s resignation outright.
- Top Republicans in the General Assembly began calling for Northam’s resignation Saturday morning, as protesters started arriving outside the Executive Mansion.
- At 9:04 a.m., House Speaker Kirk Cox and other House Republican leaders called for Northam’s resignation.
- At 9:50 a.m., the Senate Republican leadership reiterated that call: “The confidence of the people is essential to a governor being able to serve effectively. It is clear to us that Governor Northam no longer holds that confidence … The time has come for him to fulfill his duty and act in the best interests of Virginia by stepping down.”
- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called on Northam to resign at 10:52 a.m.
- About 11 a.m., word spreads on social media that Northam has contacted Virginia Democrats and said he was not actually in the photo.
- At 2:30 p.m., Northam held a press conference and said that he “reflected with my family and classmates and came to the conclusion that I am not the person in the photo.” He apologized again, but refused to step down as governor. He said resignation would be too “easy” and he is prepared for the “difficult path that lies ahead.”
- At 3 p.m., the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus again called for Northam’s resignation: “The damage that has been done by these revelations is irreparable. Our confidence in his ability to govern for the over 8 million Virginians has been eviscerated. Another moment should not pass before we hear Governor Northam do the honorable thing and resign.”
- About 3:30 p.m., Levar Stoney said that he had not changed his position. “The Governor didn’t put anything behind us by creating even more confusion, anger and disbelief. I still believe the Governor should do the honorable thing and step down so we can move forward.”
- At 4:48 p.m., Attorney General Mark Herring called for Northam to resign: “It is no longer possible for Governor Northam to lead our Commonwealth and it is time for him to step down.”
- About 6:30 p.m., U.S. Sens. Warner and Kaine and Rep. Bobby Scott, D–3rd, Virginia’s most senior elected Democrats, issued a joint statement calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to resign: “After we watched his press conference today, we called Governor Northam to tell him that we no longer believe he can effectively serve as governor of Virginia and that he must resign,” they said in the joint statement. “Governor Northam has served the people of the commonwealth faithfully for many years, but the events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders. He should step down and allow the commonwealth to begin healing.”
- A short time later, President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter. Trump tied the governor’s statement denying he is in the photo to what Trump calls Northam’s “horrible statement” earlier this week on late-term abortions. Trump concludes, “Unforgivable!”
—Daniel Berti of the Capital News Service, and staff and wire reports