Upon Reflection, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Denies He Is Pictured in KKK, Blackface Photo

Less than 24 hours after admitting he was pictured in a decades-old yearbook photo that supposedly showed him dressed in a racist costume, Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam took a 180 degree turn on Saturday to deny that he is one of two people dressed in blackface and a Ku Klux Klan costume.

"I realize that many people will find this difficult to believe. Last night I finally had a chance to sit down and look at the photograph in detail," Northam told reporters. "I am not the person in that photo. I have had friends look at it and tell me that it's not me."

Upon reflection with his family and college friends, he was confidant that he was not in the racist photo and was unsure how it appeared on his page with other pictures of him. Northam suggested the photo was released for political reasons.

Despite calls from his own party to resign, including from several Democratic presidential candidates and dozens of congressional lawmakers, Northam showed no intent on doing so. "I am asking for the opportunity to earn your forgiveness," he said.

The governor did say that in a separate instance around the same time the yearbook picture was published in 1984, he "darkened" his face with "a little bit of shoe polish" to appear as Michael Jackson for a dance performance in San Antonio.

"I really do believe that both of them are wrong," he said. "But there's a contrast between the blackface and someone standing there in a Ku Klux Klan outfit and me dressed up in a Michael Jackson costume for a dance contest."

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Then-Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam waves to supporters at an election night rally November 7, 2017, in Fairfax, Virginia. Northam defeated Republican candidate Ed Gillespie. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

In a written statement and a video posted online Friday evening, Northam confirmed one of the people were him, but said that he did not remember which one.

"I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused," Northam said. "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."

Backlash from Democrats and renewed calls for his resignation were made quickly after Northam's denial Saturday, with some statements being made before the governor had even finished answering reporters' questions. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus renewed their calls for him to resign during his press conference.

"Changing his public story today now casts further doubt on his ability to regain that trust," the group said. "At a critical juncture in this legislative session, we need to focus on the important work of governing. We cannot continue this work with Governor Northam at the helm."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez immediately followed Northam's denial with a statement saying he needs to "step aside." The NAACP also followed suit, saying they were "deeply disappointed" the governor chose not to resign.

"His past actions are completely antithetical to everything the Democratic Party stands for," Perez said. "Virginians and people across the country deserve better from their leaders, and it is clear that Ralph Northam has lost their trust and his ability to govern."

Upon Reflection, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Denies He Is Pictured in KKK, Blackface Photo | U.S.