Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tried his hardest at a news conference today to explain how it happened that a photo of a man in blackface standing next to another man in KKK garb appeared in his med school yearbook on his page, along with other innocuous photos that he posted.
But the governor's explanations were difficult, if not impossible to believe, and as The Washington Post's Dana Milbank writes in this column, he needs to "moonwalk" on out of the governor's mansion.
Northam, a Democrat, claimed at the news conference that he knew nothing about the racist photo in the yearbook, that neither individual was him, that he never saw the yearbook until Friday night, had not purchased one, and that somehow the offending picture was placed on his page by mistake. When he saw it, he said he was shocked and disgusted.
But then, Northam went on to admit that the same year he won a dance contest in which he dressed as Michael Jackson, complete with shoe polished blackface, winning with Jackson's famous "moonwalk."
On Friday night, Northam apologized for the picture and the hurt it has caused, but then today said he is certain that it's not him. He refused to resign, despite the calls from Democratic leaders both state and national, as well as Democratic presidential candidates, that he do so. That certainly is the right position for the Democratic Party to take, and it's not surprising.
An earlier blog today by contributing blogger Stacy Fitzgerald provides more detail, but I agree with Milbank. Northam's governorship is finished, whether he realizes it or not. Times have changed and such behavior is not tolerated.
As Milbank observed, "The outpouring against Northam by his fellow Democrats has been overwhelming: members of the Virginia congressional delegation and Democratic caucuses in the state legislature, the former governor, the incoming head of the Democratic Governors Association, the mayor of Richmond, presidential candidates, Virginia’s legislative black caucus, the NAACP and a who’s who of activists on the left. The calls resumed after Saturday’s Michael Jackson debacle."
No longer can elected politicians survive in the face of such opposition, which only can continue to intensify in the days ahead. At his news conference, Northam was accompanied by his wife, Pam, who with the governor might be wise to start looking for a new house and calling for bids from moving companies.
"Embattled" is a word sometimes used to describe politicians who are under the gun for one reason or another. That hardly describes Northam. I think the most apt description is simply to say that his governorship, indeed his political career, is finished.