Virginia Gov. Northam: ‘I’m not going anywhere’
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, defended his ability to lead and heal the state’s racial wounds in his first on-camera interview since the revelation of a racist photo that threatens to derail this governorship.
“Right now, Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor,” Mr. 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,” Mr. Northam said in the interview, which will air in full Monday on “CBS This Morning.”
Mr. Northam’s comments echo those he made in a Saturday interview with The Washington Post, where he vowed to devote the rest of his governorship to advancing racial equity in the one-time heart of the Confederacy.
Near the beginning of the CBS interview excerpt in an exchange with Ms. King, Mr. Northam notes that this year is the 400th anniversary of the first “indentured servants from Africa” arriving in Virginia.
Ms. King interjects: “Also known as slavery.”
Mr. 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,” Mr. Northam told Ms. 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.”
Mr. 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 operative Symone 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 Mr. Northam’s remarks, a spokeswoman for the governor pointed to news accounts that referred to the first black Africans being treated as indentured servants before slave laws.
The state is in chaos with controversies engulfing the state’s top three elected officials. Shortly after the revelations about Mr. Northam, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface as a college student, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax also faces calls to resign after two women accused him of sexual assault.
Mr. Fairfax has said encounters with his accusers in 2000 and 2004 were consensual and has asked the FBI to investigate. Virginia Democratic lawmakers began circulating a draft resolution Sunday to begin impeachment proceedings against Mr. Fairfax over the allegations of sexual assault.
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, a Republican, also acknowledged he was an editor of a 1968 yearbook that featured racial slurs and photos of students in blackface, but said he was not responsible for the content.
Mr. Northam, who is starting to appear publicly again after spending nearly a week in seclusion, addressed the scandals facing his fellow elected officials.
Democratic lawmakers at the state and national level, along with the state Democratic Party, have demanded Mr. Fairfax’s resignation, but the lieutenant governor has said he will not step down. Mr. Fairfax would become governor if Mr. Northam resigns.
Mr. Northam said he supports an investigation, but stopped short of calling for Mr. Fairfax’s resignation.
Gov. Ralph Northam