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From abortion to blackface: Northam engulfed in controversy

February 5, 2019
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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. 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. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — On Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s was blasted for controversial abortion comments he made during a radio interview. Two days later, news outlets reported that a racist photo appears on Northam’s medical school yearbook page. On Tuesday, he clung to office even as Democrats had been denouncing him for days. Here is a timeline of what led to this point.

ABORTION BACKLASH

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was accused by prominent Republicans of supporting infanticide because of comments he made about late-term abortions in which the infant is severely deformed or unable to survive after birth.

The Democratic governor and pediatric neurologist was defending efforts to loosen abortion restrictions during a Jan. 30 radio interview when described a hypothetical situation where a severely deformed newborn infant could be left to die.

Northam denies advocating for infanticide and said he was trying to answer a question from a medical perspective.

PHOTO UNCOVERED

Hours after a conservative news outlet first reported there is a racist photo on Northam’s medical school yearbook page, Virginia’s governor on Friday apologized and acknowledged that he appears in the photo.

The photo in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School shows two people looking at the camera — one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in white Klan robes.

By late Friday, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus had called for Northam to resign, as had several Democratic presidential candidates.

NORTHAM’S DENIAL

Backtracking from his previous statements, Northam held a news conference in which he said he was “convinced” he is not in the racist photo on his yearbook page.

Despite calls for his resignation growing, Northam on Saturday vowed to stay in office.

At the same news conference, Northam acknowledged putting on blackface decades ago to look like Michael Jackson for a dance contest. And at one point, he seemed as if he might do the moonwalk for reporters before his wife intervened.

CONSULTING WITH ADVISERS

Northam consulted with top administration officials Monday about whether he should stay in office or resign amid an uproar over a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page.

The governor wanted to hear their assessment of whether it is feasible for him to stay in office, according to a top administration official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

YEARBOOK TIPSTER

A “concerned citizen” upset by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent comments on abortion legislation tipped off a conservative news site about a racist yearbook photo now threatening the governor’s career, the site’s editor said Monday.

The site’s editor-in-chief, Patrick Howley, said in an interview Monday that the tipster was “absolutely not a political operative, absolutely not — just a concerned citizen” but declined to elaborate on their identity.

NEWCOMER TO TAKE OVER?

If Northam stepped down, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would be the second African-American governor in Virginia’s history.

His supporters have touted him as a fresh face whose charisma has allowed him to connect with voters. His detractors suggest he is unproven and inexperienced.

On Monday, Fairfax was drawn into a controversy of his own. He denied an allegation of sexual misconduct first reported by a conservative website, calling it a “smear.” Fairfax said the 2004 encounter with a woman was consensual. The Associated Press is not reporting the accusation because AP has not able to confirm it.

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