‘I’m not go­ing any­where’

Northam says he’s best equipped to help Vir­ginia heal.

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY FENIT NIRAPPIL [email protected]­post.com

Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) de­fended his abil­ity to lead and heal the state’s racial wounds in his first on-cam­era in­ter­view since the rev­e­la­tion of racist pho­tos that threaten to de­rail his gov­er­nor­ship.

“Right now, Vir­ginia needs some­one that can heal. There’s no bet­ter per­son to do that than a doc­tor,” Northam said in an in­ter­view with jour­nal­ist Gayle King, ex­cerpts of which were aired at the start of CBS’s “Face the Na­tion” on Sun­day.

“Vir­ginia also needs some­one who is strong, who has em­pa­thy, who has courage and who has a moral com­pass. And that’s why I’m not go­ing any­where,” Northam said in the in­ter­view, which was sched­uled to air in full Mon­day on “CBS This Morn­ing.”

Northam’s com­ments echo those he made in a Satur­day in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Post in which he promised to de­vote the rest of his gov­er­nor­ship to ad­vanc­ing racial eq­uity in a place that was at the heart of the Con­fed­er­acy.

Near the be­gin­ning of the CBS in­ter­view ex­cerpt in an ex­change with King, Northam noted that this year is the 400th an­niver­sary of the first “in­den­tured ser­vants from Africa” ar­riv­ing in Vir­ginia.

King in­ter­jects: “Also known as slav­ery.”

Northam re­sponds, “Yes. While we have made a lot of progress in Vir­ginia — slav­ery has ended, schools have been de­seg­re­gated, we have ended the Jim Crow laws, eas­ier ac­cess to vot­ing — it is abun­dantly clear that we still have a lot of work to do,” Northam told King. “And I re­ally think this week raised a level of aware­ness in the com­mon­wealth and in this coun­try that we haven’t seen, cer­tainly in my life­time.”

Northam’s ref­er­ence to slaves as in­den­tured ser­vants sparked some out­rage on so­cial me­dia.

“Vir­ginia de­serves a gov­er­nor that knows the folks who were stolen from their land & brought to present day Vir­ginia on cargo ships in 1619 were not ‘in­den­tured ser­vants’ they were moth­ers, fa­thers, daugh­ters, sons, lead­ers, war­riors, elders who were cap­tured & en­slaved. SIGH,” tweeted Demo­cratic strate­gist Sy­mone D. San­ders.

“My God, it just gets worse & worse. Asked about this week in VA, Northam re­sponds by re­fer­ring to kid­napped, en­slaved, & traf­ficked Africans as ‘in­den­tured ser­vants,’ ” tweeted Qasim Rashid, a Mus­lim ac­tivist who lives in Vir­ginia.

The first Africans brought to Vir­ginia were cap­tured in An­gola and brought in a slave ship, but Vir­ginia did not have a for­mal le­gal sys­tem for slav­ery in 1619. There ap­pears to be some am­bi­gu­ity over their le­gal sta­tus, with some still forced to work for life while oth­ers had a path to free­dom, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Park Ser­vice. Asked to clar­ify Northam’s re­marks, a spokes­woman for the gov­er­nor pointed to news ac­counts that said Africans were treated as in­den­tured ser­vants be­fore slave laws were writ­ten.

The state is in chaos with con­tro­ver­sies en­gulf­ing its top three elected of­fi­cials. Shortly af­ter the rev­e­la­tions about Northam, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark R. Her­ring (D) ad­mit­ted to wear­ing black­face as a col­lege stu­dent, and Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax (D) also faces calls to re­sign af­ter two women ac­cused him of sex­ual as­sault. Fair­fax has said en­coun­ters with his ac­cusers in 2000 and 2004 were con­sen­sual and has asked the FBI to in­ves­ti­gate.

Vir­ginia Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Thomas K. Nor­ment Jr. (RJames City) also ac­knowl­edged he was an ed­i­tor of a 1968 year­book that fea­tured racial slurs and pho­tos of stu­dents in black­face, but he said he was not re­spon­si­ble for the con­tent.

Northam, who is start­ing to ap­pear pub­licly af­ter spend­ing nearly a week in seclu­sion, ad­dressed the scan­dals fac­ing his fel­low elected of­fi­cials.

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers at the state and na­tional lev­els, along with the state Demo­cratic Party, have de­manded Fair­fax’s res­ig­na­tion, but the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor has said he will not step down. Fair­fax would be­come gov­er­nor if Northam re­signs.

Northam said he sup­ports an in­ves­ti­ga­tion but stopped short of call­ing for Fair­fax’s res­ig­na­tion.

“If these ac­cu­sa­tions are de­ter­mined to be true, I don’t think he’s go­ing to have any other op­tion but to re­sign,” said Northam, who told King that he has not spo­ken to Fair­fax since the sec­ond ac­cuser went pub­lic Fri­day af­ter­noon.

Northam also of­fered for­give­ness to Her­ring, who af­ter dis­clos­ing that he dark­ened his face when dress­ing up like rap­per Kur­tis Blow in col­lege has largely avoided the bliz­zard of res­ig­na­tion calls that have dogged the gov­er­nor and lieu­tenant gov­er­nor.

“I don’t know what the at­tor­ney gen­eral was think­ing, what his per­cep­tion was of race, of, of the use of black­face back then,” Northam said to King. “But I can tell you that I am sure, just like me, he has grown. He has served Vir­ginia well, and he and I and Justin, all three of us, have fought for equal­ity.”

The al­le­ga­tions against Fair­fax have placed Democrats in an un­com­fort­able po­si­tion: They are at­tempt­ing to push a ris­ing African Amer­i­can star out of of­fice, while a white gov­er­nor and at­tor­ney gen­eral ac­cused of racism may re­main.

Pres­i­dent Trump weighed in Sun­day morn­ing, tweet­ing “African Amer­i­cans are very an­gry at the dou­ble stan­dard on full dis­play in Vir­ginia!”

A Wash­ing­ton Post-Schar School poll found Vir­gini­ans were evenly split on whether Northam should step down, but black vot­ers were more in­clined to for­give him. The poll found 58 per­cent of African Amer­i­cans did not want Northam to re­sign, sup­ported his per­for­mance as gov­er­nor and ac­cepted his apol­ogy. The polling was con­ducted be­fore the sec­ond sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tion against Fair­fax.

Northam’s at­tempts to make amends have yet to shift Demo­cratic de­mands for his res­ig­na­tion. U.S. Reps. Jen­nifer Wex­ton (D-Va.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) re­it­er­ated their calls for his res­ig­na­tion in Sun­day ap­pear­ances on “Face the Na­tion.”

“I un­der­stand that he wants, that he’s feel­ing con­tri­tion, that he’s feel­ing re­gret,” Wex­ton said. “But we need some­body who, who can­not only ad­dress the wrongs of the past but take Vir­ginia into the fu­ture, and I think he’s lost the con­fi­dence of the peo­ple in or­der to be able to do that.”

The con­tro­versy be­gan when a con­ser­va­tive web­site ear­lier this month pub­li­cized Northam’s page in the 1984 East­ern Vir­ginia Med­i­cal School year­book that has a photo of two peo­ple — one in black­face and the other in a KKK uni­form — hold­ing beers.

The gov­er­nor orig­i­nally ac­knowl­edged ap­pear­ing in the photo and then back­tracked the next day at a na­tion­ally tele­vised news con­fer­ence, when he said he did not be­lieve he was in the photo but did ad­mit to don­ning black­face at a dance com­pe­ti­tion in Texas.

The chang­ing ex­pla­na­tions were of­ten cited by elected Democrats in their calls for Northam to re­sign and, ac­cord­ing to The Post’s poll, struck most vot­ers as un­be­liev­able.

KATHERINE FREY/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is in­ter­viewed Satur­day at the Gov­er­nor’s Man­sion.

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