Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Sunday that the man currently holding that seat, Gov. Ralph Northam, will resign soon amid the mounting scandal over a photo on his medical school yearbook page that showed what appeared to be a man in blackface and a second person cloaked in Ku Klux Klan garb.
“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.” Northam served as McAuliffe’s lieutenant governor.
McAuliffe added: “Ralph is a good, moral, decent man. And may have made some mistakes in his past. We all have made mistakes. Ralph will do the right thing for the Commonwealth of Virginia. He will put Virginia first. And I think that will happen relatively soon.”
The scandal began Friday when The Virginian-Pilot on Friday released the photo from Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.
Northam quickly apologized for appearing in a photograph, but by Saturday, he reversed course and said the racist photo on his yearbook profile page did not feature him after all. The Democratic governor said he had not seen the photo before Friday, since he had not purchased the commemorative book or been involved in its preparation more than three decades ago.
“It has taken time for me to make sure that it’s not me, but I am convinced, I am convinced that I am not in that picture,” he told reporters gathered at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, calling the shot offensive and horrific.
While talking with reporters on Saturday, Northam admitted that he had previously worn blackface around that time, saying he once had used shoe polish to darken his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume he fashioned for a 1984 dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, when he was in the U.S. Army. Northam said he regrets that he didn’t understand “the harmful legacy of an action like that.”
Northam’s explanation didn’t put a dent in the clamor for his resignation.
Both of Virginia’s U.S. senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, joined the dean of Virginia’s congressional delegation, congressman Bobby Scott, in a statement Saturday night that says they have told Northam that they no longer believe he can effectively serve as governor.
McAuliffe, who is rumored to be a possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said Sunday that he doubted Northam could have been mistaken about whether he was in the photo.
“You know if you put black paint on your face,” he said. “You know if you put a hood on. And so if it isn’t you, you come out immediately and say this is not me.”
McAuliffe added that whether or not it was Northam in the photo, the governor still should resign in order to allow Virginia to move on.
“It doesn’t matter whether he was in the photo or not at this point,” McAuliffe said. “We have to close that chapter. We have to move Virginia forward. Justin Fairfax, African-American lieutenant governor, will do a great job of bringing folks back together.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.