Transcript for NAACP president: Northam's had 'ample opportunity' to 'disclose that he has changed'
It was an ugly reminder of America's racist past. That 1984 photo from the medical school yearbook page of Virginia's democratic governor, Ralph Northam. When it surfaced Friday, condemnation from fellow Democrats came hard and fast. Northam acknowledged the photo and apologized twice saying it does not represent the person I am today. But by Friday night, his fate seemed sealed, resignation inevitable. Then came that dramatic aboutface on Saturday. At a packed press conference in Richmond, Northam disavowed the yearbook photo. When I was confronted with the images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page, but I believed then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo. There is no way that I have ever been in a kkk uniform. I am not the person in that uniform and I am not the person to the right. But there was that one time. That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume, but there is a contrast between the blackface and someone standing there in a klu klux Klan outfit and me dressed up in a Michael Jackson costume for a dance contest, and again they're both wrong, but I would hope people would see the contrast. And for a moment, Northam even seemed to contemplate a demonstration. You said the competition in San Antonio was a dance competition? Yes. And you danced the moon walk? That's right. Are you still able to moon walk? Inappropriate circumstances. My wife says, inappropriate circumstances. Any support Northam had evaporated after that. Virginia's Democrats led by senators mark Warner and Tim kaine all agreed he has to go, but as we come on the air this morning, Northam is still governor. Our first guest this morning, the president of the naacp, Derrick Johnson. Thank you for joining us. Do you see any way the governor can survive this? I don't, George. I see maybe there was a scenario where it wasn't him in blackface. Maybe he had no input on the yearbook format. Maybe he, you know, just didn't consider it, but he has had a lot of time to respond at this juncture. So whether he was in the room, at the party, that page -- that photo was on his page, and then you compound that with the fact that he did do black face performance to Michael Jackson. That's fine, but he has had ample opportunity as lieutenant governor during the charlottesville incident and many other times prior to now to disclose that he has changed his ways. He recognized the error of his past and he is doing things differently and acknowledged that. So just to be clear, if it turned out he is not in that photo, and that wasn't him and he had nothing to do with that photo going on his page, that would make no difference to you? At this juncture, no. He finished medical school, received a yearbook with a racist picture on his page in the yearbook and he has said nothing about it. He acknowledged that that was apart of something that was taking place during that period of time and whether he actively participated or passively was present, he not one time up until this point acknowledged that this took place, objected to that behavior or stated that, you know, I had a different upbringing and I was apart of a southern culture that embraced this racist, vile behavior, and I'm a changed man now and as a result of this, I denounce that activity and my participation and we will move forward with public policy to remedy this. Let's turn the clock back. Had he contemplated and aired this himself, and he talked about it in the way you just said, do you think that would have made a difference? Absolutely. You and I have both seen individuals in public office who proactively disclose errors of the past. None of us are perfect. Many of us have had issues in the past. The most effective politician's way to address this is to talk about it early and begin to work to make aamends to the community that's offended, and work hard to heal any injuries that have been caused. How do you square those pictures with the governor you know? You know, living in Mississippi, I understand the schizophrenia of being a progressive-leaning public official living in a southern culture that still embraces confederacy and all the remnants of the confederacy. It's a tight rope. The best individuals who live in that culture, denounce it early, swiftly and it's clear about it. Both the symbols of the confederacy and racism and the policy of the confederacy and racism. That's something that many southern politicians must do. Particularly white politicians in order for this nation to grow and heal. Thank you for your time this morning. Thank you for the opportunity.
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