'Yesterday was a pathetic spectacle by Gov. Northam': Former Obama adviser

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable debates Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's political viability after the emergence of a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page, which he denies he's in.
5:42 | 02/03/19

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Transcript for 'Yesterday was a pathetic spectacle by Gov. Northam': Former Obama adviser
Okay. Thanks for your time this morning. I want to bring you to our round table and start with Patrick Gaspard. Your reaction? Yesterday was a pathetic spectacle by the governor. I respect the congressman. I have worked with the congressman and appreciate his point of view, but when he cites historic figures like Robert Byrd who towards the end of their life needed to make good with his god, we need to remember people like him, who served in the klu klux Klan and then led the longest filibuster in the history of the senate against the civil rights bill. There is a man dressed in blackface and standing next to someone in a kkk robe. That is not a mistake. That's a decision that one makes that projects a set of values and a set of violent values into the world. I hope the governor will do the right thing soon. My current colleague, former congressman from Virginia, lost a primary to Northam and talks often about the duality of Virginia, a state that was the founding state in the democracy, but also a state that 400 years ago introduced slavery, that elected the first African-American governor, but also the incident in charlottesville. At a time where we have suffered from white supremacists like king, and we have to have a zero tolerance policy on these kinds of issues. Maggie Haberman from "The new York Times," it does seem a case of political malpractice, and the governor didn't air it himself. It's hard to set aside the morality, but if we're going to, it's surprising it was not found during the campaign. They were not lacking for opposition researchers. I guess you don't typically look for a medical school yearbook, but somebody should have, and it is surprising that Northam did not seek to get ahead of it, and that was what was so stunning yesterday at his press conference when he started talking about this Michael Jackson incident where he put on a costume, a Halloween costume where he darkened his face as he put it and started talking about how shoe Polish doesn't come off very easily, and a reporter in the crowd asked him how he happened to know that. There is a lot more at play here, and I think that regardless of whether Northam would have fared better if he aired this himself, that's questionable. He did not exhibit any understanding of why this is problematic. He has turned this into a referendum on him as opposed to racism. Matthew dowd, you look at that, and even as I was talking to Jim Moran about this, a human being deserves redemption and a chance, it doesn't seem possible for him to govern at this point. All parts of this relate to him and his performance at the conference are not defensible and obviously those pictures are Duh despicable and there are facts to be gathered obviously from what he has said in this. I think it's only not possible because of his performance and that going on, but it's not possible today unfortunately in the moment we're in, where speed is everything, and I think -- I have never called in all the time I have criticized people, called on them to resign or called on them to quit because I don't think that we shouldn't automatically impose the sentencing phase of politics, and in this case, we're basically saying that the political equivalent of the capital punishment is basically the death penalty for politics in this, and I think we have to put all of these things in context and make a decision in a more thoughtful and deeper way. That's one, and another part of this is the level of cognitive dissonance and people calling on him to resign is astounding in this. If you think it is bad, what happened 35 years ago, you have to think it's at least as bad or more so, what people are saying and doing today, related to dividing the race and related to hate. So if you think he should resign, then you have to ask the same question of a number of politicians who say and do things that are at least or more hateful than those pictures. Pam Bondi, former attorney general, this came up in the governor's race in the state of Florida. The current governor of Florida is accused of making statements that a lot of people saw as racist, yet the Republican party kind of unified behind him even as they criticized Ralph Northam here. He came out right away and said, what should you do next? That's what I told my young prosecutors when I was a prosecutor, and I would love to be a prosecutor here. We all believe in redemption, but redemption must include remorse, and what Maggie just said is so accurate. When he was talking about the Michael Jackson incident and he said, oh, we all know? No. None of us know what black paint can do -- shoe Polish to your face, nor should we. He was looking at that floor considering moon walking. I didn't see anyone halfway remorseful in that. We know what his nickname was. I would love to cross examine him, and we know he submitted pictures to his yearbook, yet se says he never looked at the yearbook? That's all absurd, and that nickname is disgusting. He seemed to be a man in shock yesterday as well. What can they take away from this? First of all, you know, I think you asked the right question earlier which is could he have survived a democratic primary had he released this information? And the answer probably is no, but for all political leaders, Republicans and Democrats, you know, we're not perfect, but if you have this issue in your past, have a genuine, thoughtful conversation with a minister or a rabbi and put it out there and have a reflection and change of heart and for governor Northam, here's the thing. You know, he does deserve a chance at redemption, but that doesn't mean he should be governor. Being governor is a privilege, not a right.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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