Congressional Black Caucus leaders say Virginia Gov. Northam 'has to resign'

WASHINGTON — Top Congressional Black Caucus members said Sunday that Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam "has to resign" in the wake of his shifting explanations for a racist photo that appeared on his medical school yearbook page.

Appearing on Sunday's "Meet the Press," Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the CBC and Virginia Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin said Northam's answers have only made the situation more untenable since the photo, which shows one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe, became public on Friday.

"He has lost the authority to lead, he's lost the authority to govern. He has to resign," McEachin said. "It's in the best interest of the commonwealth, it's in the best interest of the party."

 

Bass criticized Northam as "completely dishonest and disingenuous" and dismissed the idea that by staying in office, Northam is forcing a conversation on race.

"He's forcing the wrong conversation. What he should do is resign, and if he has any integrity at all, he should participate in that conversation," she said.

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, left, gestures as his wife, Pam, listens during a news conference in the Governors Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Northam is under fire for a racial photo that appeared in his college yearbook. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam pauses during a news conference in the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va., on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Resisting widespread calls for his resignation, Northam on Saturday vowed to remain in office after disavowing a racist photograph that appeared under his name in his 1984 medical school yearbook. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, left, accompanied by his wife, Pam, speaks during a news conference in the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va., on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Northam is under fire for a racial photo that appeared in his college yearbook. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam pauses during a news conference in the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va., on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Northam is under fire for a racial photo that appeared in his college yearbook. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - May 21: Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam takes part in a candidate forum put on by Americans for Responsible Solutions at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town on Sunday May 21, 2017 in Alexandria, VA. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Barack Obama campaigns in support of Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, Democratic candidate for governor, at a rally with supporters in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who is campaigning to be elected as the state's governor, and his wife Pam, cast their ballots at the East Ocean View Community Center in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Julia Rendleman
FAIRFAX, VA - APRIL 29: Tom Perriello, left, shakes hands with Ralph Northam at the start of the event. Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates, Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello held their first debate on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at Lanier Middle School in Fairfax, VA. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MARCH 08: Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam visits Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to visit with airport workers on Wednesday March 08, 2017 in Arlington, VA. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, cheer on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, July 25, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Ralph Northam (R) is sworn in as Virginia's lieutenant governor by retired Judge Glen Tyler in Richmond, Virginia, January 11, 2014. The ceremony marks the first time in a quarter century that Democrats will hold all three of the state's top elective posts: governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. REUTERS/Mike Theiler (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
FALLS CHURCH, VA - OCTOBER 19: Hillary Rodham Clinton, center right in red, stands with the Democratic ticket as she endorses Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, far right, at a Women for Terry rallyon October, 19, 2013 in Falls Church, VA. Pictured from left, Sen Mark Herring, Sen. Ralph Northam, Clinton, and McAuliffe. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, take a selfie on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, July 25, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 2: Ralph Northam greets supporters in front of the venue as progressive and labor groups from across the Commonwealth host a forum for him and fellow candidate Tom Perriello to discuss Virginia's 2017 Governor's race on May, 02, 2017 in Arlington, VA. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Virginia Democratic governor-elect Terry McAuliffe (R) celebrates with lieutenant governor-elect Ralph Northam (L) at their election night victory rally in Tyson's Corner, Virginia November 5, 2013. McAuliffe defeated Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli in today's governor's election in Virginia. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
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Their calls echoed Democratic figures across the country who have called for the governor to resign since the photo surfaced.

The governor initially apologized "for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo" hours after the 1984 yearbook photos surfaced.

But during a stunning Saturday press conference, Northam said that upon further reflection he realized he was not in the photo at all. He did admit that he once used shoe polish to darken his face while portraying Michael Jackson in a dance contest.

Bass said that Northam's performance at the press conference only reinforced her belief he should resign.

"He even acted at the press conference like he was willing to moonwalk until his wife stopped him, which shows he still does not understand the seriousness of his actions," she said.

And Bass pushed back on Northam's defense that he's been solid on racial issues during his career in politics, arguing that he "backtracked" on his commitment to tearing down Confederate monuments in the state during his gubernatorial bid.

 

In the hours after Northam faced the press, Virginia Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Virginia Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez and L. Douglas Wilder, the first black governor of Virginia, all called on the governor to quit.

Previously, groups and individuals including the Virginia Democratic Party, a handful of Democratic presidential candidates, the president of the NAACP and the state Republican Party all called for his resignation.

If Northam ultimately resigns, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is black, will take over as governor. While Virginia imposes a one-term limit on their governor, Fairfax would be allowed to run again in 2021 because he would not have been elected by Virginians to a full term.

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