A three-month-long investigation commissioned by Eastern Virginia Medical School could not determine whether or not Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) was in a racist photograph that appeared on his page in the school’s 1984 yearbook.
However, the investigation did reveal that the university’s leadership had known about the photo for years, but had purposely kept quiet about it so as not to jeopardize Northam’s political career.
What yearbook photo?
On Feb. 1, the website Big League Politics published a page from Northam’s medical school yearbook, which showed a man in blackface standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan hood.
Although he initially admitted to being in the photograph and apologized for it, Northam later backtracked and said he was not sure how that photo even got on his page.
In an attempt to prove that he was not in that photo, Northam volunteered that he had worn blackface to a party which he attended dressed as Michael Jackson. Until Northam’s admission, no news outlet had reported that this second incident existed.
In a bizarre turn of events, a reporter asked Northam if he could still moonwalk like Michael Jackson, and Northam seemed ready to oblige before his wife stepped in and reminded him that these were “inappropriate circumstances.”
The Washington Post claimed that the page had been leaked to the media by one of Northam’s former classmates. This classmate had reportedly been reacting to Northam seeming to casually endorse infanticide during his promotion of an abortion bill in a radio interview on Jan. 30.
Initially, there was bipartisan outcry for Northam to step down. However, those allegations disappeared after Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused of sexual assault, and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he also had worn blackface during college.
If all three of these Democratic leaders had stepped down, the governorship would have gone to Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox.
What happened now?
On Tuesday, investigators hired by EVMS submitted the results of their investigation.
The report found that there were several other photos of students wearing blackface in EVMS yearbooks, including two others in the one from Northam’s year. However, the investigators could not determine whether or not Northam was one of the people in the photo.
It also found that the school had known about the photo for years. The report said that “[m]embers of the EVMS staff brought the photograph to the attention of the president of EVMS on two separate occasions. Most recently, it was brought to the attention of President Homan, and prior to that it was brought to the attention of then-President Lester.”
The report said that both presidents of the university had “decided that the school should not take steps to publicly announce the Photograph or to call Governor Northam’s attention to it.
Homan had said that he did not want the school to “become involved, or be seen to become involved, in an election…and that EVMS did not want there to be any suggestion that it had tried to influence Governor Northam in any respect by called the Photograph to his attention.”