Amid calls for his resignation and President Trump’s tweeting that his alleged behavior is “unforgivable,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam hosted a press conference Saturday to address reports that he appeared in a photograph for his 1984 medical school yearbook in which two men — one in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan robe — are shown.
Despite issuing an apology on Friday when the photo was made public, Northam has since insisted that he is neither of the men pictured.
“Yesterday I took responsibility for content that appeared on my page that was clearly racist and offensive,” he said in Saturday’s press conference. “I will not excuse the content of the photo. It was offensive, racist and despicable. I was seeing it for the first time. I was unaware of what was on my page. I was appalled that they appeared on my page.
“I believe now I am not either of the people in that photo,” he continued. “It is disgusting, offensive, racist.”
But during the same press conference, he did admit that he has worn blackface before — to imitate Michael Jackson in a talent show.
“I didn’t realize at the time that it was as offensive as I have since learned,” Northam told reporters about using shoe polish to darken his face for the performance, which he said took place in San Antonio, Texas, when he was 25.
“I had the shoes, I had a glove, and I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put under, or on my cheeks,” Northam said. “The reason I used a very little bit is because, I don’t know if anybody has ever tried that, but you cannot get shoe polish off.”
Northam added that he moonwalked for the show. When a reporter asked if he could do still moonwalk, the Democrat paused before his wife, Pam, responded that it was “inappropriate circumstances.”
Northam acknowledged that his costume was “wrong” but argued that wearing a Michael Jackson costume was less offensive than posing for the blackface-and-KKK photo that appears on his yearbook page, which he denies doing.
The Michael Jackson confession has sent commentators on both sides of the aisle reeling.
“I think he further damaged himself,” Rev. Al Sharpton said on MSNBC. “And since he loves Michael, he should go back to the mansion and play ‘Beat It’ and start packing.”
Responding to Governor Ralph Northam's statement in response to his racist photo controversy. I feel he should've resigned, in the words of Michael Jackson, I think he should "Beat it". #MSNBC pic.twitter.com/sXkyz9e0O9
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) February 2, 2019
If you had "darkened my face to participate in a Michael Jackson dance competition" on your Northam speech bingo card, congratulations.
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) February 2, 2019
"I am clearly *not* the Zodiac Killer, because I have proof that I was killing a series of young women in Sacramento at the time."
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) February 3, 2019
Wayment…so to make us believe it’s NOT you in blackface in the photo, you admit to a DIFFERENT blackface? pic.twitter.com/XOxBOEVpYP
— Prentice Penny (@The_A_Prentice) February 3, 2019
Why people hate politicans:
1. I’m in the photo and I’m sorry.
2. I can’t remember if I’m on the left or the right.
3. I’m not in the photo.
4. But I did use blackface previously as Michael Jackson.
5. But I’ve grown so I won’t resign.
Pathetic and an embarrassment.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) February 2, 2019
I can't believe Ralph Northam briefly considered demonstrating the Moonwalk in a press conference as a way to prove he dressed in blackface as Michael Jackson for a dance contest in the '80s in order to convince folks he didn't appear in blackface in a photo on his yearbook page.
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) February 2, 2019
Northam: I’ll say it wasn’t me.
Press Secretary: Good
Press Secretary: For the last time—
Northam: Everybody knows a racist can’t love Michael Jackson!
Press Secretary: Absolutely not!
Press Secretary: Thank you.
Northam: …I did it black face.
— Natasha Rothwell (@natasharothwell) February 2, 2019
You mean to tell me a racist photo was on your yearbook page for 35 years and you never noticed it and none of your friends ever told you about it? And you dressed in blackface as Michael Jackson? And you had a nickname as “coonman” in college? Ralph Northam must resign. https://t.co/aMpshJgotu
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) February 2, 2019
Wow! This Michael Jackson documentary on HBO is simply unbelievable! Oh wait. Sorry, I’m watching the Ralph Northam press conference.
— Dennis Miller (@DennisDMZ) February 3, 2019
Breaking wind from CNN! Exclusive footage of Ralph Northam leaving press conference today. https://t.co/bIbLz52Jsk
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) February 3, 2019
Northam continues to resist calls from both parties to resign.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- School apologizes after teacher wore blackface during African history lesson
- Single mom alleges next-door neighbor stabbed her dog and called her the N-word: ‘The KKK is coming’
- Man arrested for pulling gun on teen protesters, calling them the N-word