U.S.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Holds Urgent Meeting With Top Staffers Amid Calls to Resign: Report

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam reportedly called for an urgent and unscheduled meeting with his top staffers on Sunday amid demands for his resignation over a racist photo in his medical school yearbook from 1984.

After two days of adamantly refusing to resign, people with knowledge of the meeting said that Northam still hadn’t made up his mind up, according to The Washington Post. Although the identities of the others present have not been revealed, The Post reported that the meeting involved senior staffers of color. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax was reportedly not at the meeting.

A Democratic official told The Post that the meeting was emotional, adding that another meeting would be held on Monday for a larger group of staffers in Northam’s administration. Northam’s office did not immediately respond to Newsweek’s request for comment.

Northam has faced almost-unanimous calls for his resignation after an offensive 1984 yearbook photo surfaced online that depicted him in blackface standing next to another person dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Less than 24 hours after the Virginia governor apologized for the image, Northam gave a news conference on Saturday at which he denied appearing in the photo and explained that he was wrongly accused.

“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 said. “I am not the person in that photo. I have had friends look at it and tell me that it's not me.”

During the same press conference, Northam revealed that he once wore blackface for a Michael Jackson dance contest, which occurred around the same year the offensive photo was taken. In an attempt to prove his story, the governor considered doing the moonwalk for reporters but decided against the idea when his wife, Pam Northam, called the circumstances "inappropriate."

Since the scandal emerged, Democratic and Republican lawmakers—including former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe—have called on Northam to resign from his post.

"Once that picture with the blackface and klansman came out there is no way you can continue to be the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia," McAuliffe said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Fox News’s Chris Wallace attempted to defend Northam’s position on Sunday during a segment on Fox News Sunday, questioning whether it was fair to judge the governor’s career based on a mistake made “35 years ago.”

“Hateful as that photograph from 1984 is, and there’s no question it is hateful,” the host said. “It was 35 years ago, and this governor does have a pretty good record of reaching out to African-Americans, he has been a member of an African-American church. Is it just impossible, in the year 2019, to even consider whether you should judge a person’s whole life of work against one terrible mistake?”

GettyImages-1093132558 Virginia Governor Ralph Northam speaks with reporters at a news conference at the governor's mansion on February 2, in Richmond. On Sunday, Northam reportedly held an "urgent" meeting with his top staffers amid calls for his resignation over a blackface photo from 35 years ago. Getty/Alex Edelman

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